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From the collection of the 

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San Francisco, California 




Beat telephone equipment in use. Note folding writing platform; 
also combined receiver and transmitter set. 

Publications of the Bureau of Public Administration 
University of California 












Foreword, by Samuel C. May vii 

Preface, by the author ix 

Introduction, by August Vollmer xiii 


I. The Beginnings of Modern Police Communication . . . 1 

II. The Modern Police Telephone System 52 

III. The Beat and Its Equipment 76 

XIV. The Police Radio System 107 

V. Radio Patrol Operation 157 

VI. The Regional Police Communication System 204 

VII. The Police Teletype Network 242 

VIII. Burglar- and Holdup-alarm Systems 266 

IX. Coordination of the Police Communication System . . . 298 

X. Police Communication under Disaster Conditions . . . 320 

XI. Police Communication and Distant Identification . . . 337 

XII. The Modern Police Communication System 362 

XIII. Foreign Police Communication Systems 404 

XIV. Conclusion 461 


1. Specifications and Bidding Instructions for the Purchase 

of Police Radio Equipment 483 

2. Contracts Covering Regional Police Radio Organization 

and Service 489 

3. Municipal Legislation Prohibiting Electrical Interference 
with Radio Reception 494 

4. Municipal Legislation Prohibiting the Following Up and 
Answering of Police Radio Calls 497 

5. Radio Legislation Enacted by States 502 

6. The New York State Teletype System Operating and 
Record Procedure 508 

7. Exhibits from the Files of the New Jersey State Police 
Teletype System 523 

8. Alarm-system Equipment 529 

9. Miscellaneous Record Forms 537 

10. Summary of Work Performed by the California State Divi- 
sion of Identification and Investigation 552 

Bibliography 556 

Index . . 573 



Beat telephone equipment in use Frontispiece 

Early methods of police communication and transportation . . 11 
Telephone layouts for police headquarters and police department 

precincts 56 

Telephone room at New York City police headquarters .... 58 

Beat telephone equipment 88 

Police recall-signal unit for mounting at street intersections . . 98 

Another police recall-signal unit 100 

The nerve center of the New York City police radio patrol system 112 

The ideal transmitting antenna 118 

A radio receiver set for police patrol cars 128 

Fractional-second approach to zero running time by radio- 
equipped police patrol cars: fast performance 168 

Fractional-minute approach to zero running time by radio- 
equipped police patrol cars: slow performance 170 

Map of radio- equipped police patrol car districts, St. Paul . . 172 
Motorcycle for police use, equipped with a short-wave radio 

receiving set 195 

Radio-equipped motorcycle and side-car unit with armored con- 
struction 196 

Switchboard and associated teletypwriter: Harrisburg installa- 
tion, Pennsylvania State Police teletype network 244 

California police teletype network 258 

Pictures received over the Australian telephoto system .... 344 
Foreign beat communication equipment: interior of police booth, 

The Hague 418 

Foreign beat communication equipment: exterior of police booth, 

The Hague 420 

Foreign teletype systems: central signal room, police headquar- 
ters, Amsterdam 423 


WHEN IN 1930 the Bureau of Public Administration of the 
University of California inaugurated a program of research 
in public administration, its initial emphasis was directed to 
the administration of criminal justice as one of several major 
fields in each of which specialists in particular aspects of that 
subject would cooperate in a series of related research proj- 
ects. Since that time a bibliography of crime and criminal 
justice since 1926 has been compiled, and studies dealing with 
the incidence of delinquency in Berkeley, 1928-1932, judicial 
criminal statistics, the prosecutor's office, the public defender 
and private defense attorneys, and California prison popula- 
tion, 1902-1934, have been made by members of the staff. 
Since 1930, also, studies in police administration, including 
The Police and Modern Society, published in 1936, Crime 
and the State Police, published in 1935, police communication 
systems, traffic engineering, and criminal investigation, have 
been conducted under the direction of Professor August 

The Bureau of Public Administration presents this volume, 
Police Communication Systems, by V. A. Leonard, as the 
fourth of its publications in the group dealing with the ad- 
ministration of criminal justice. 





INFORMATION contained in this book is from reliable 
sources. Fiction and questionable opinions have been re- 
placed by facts. Very early in the course of the work, it was 
found necessary to reject a large mass of information repre- 
sented by popular accounts of feats performed by police tele- 
type and radio communication, because this information was 
not dependable. Data collected at random in the past nine 
years have been supplemented by systematic inquiries di- 
rected to important centers in the United States, Canada, and 
the majority of foreign countries, in an endeavor to establish 
connection with satisfactory sources of information. In addi- 
tion to some 3000 questionnaires forwarded, more than 1000 
original typewritten letters were placed in the mails, and 
these were supplemented by personal investigation and inter- 
views wherever possible. 

The labor of pioneering the way into a new field of inquiry 
would have been exceedingly difficult but for the ardent inter- 
est and cooperation extended by a host of friends. The in- 
spiration and counsel of August Vollmer (formerly Chief of 
Police of Berkeley, California, and later Professor of Police 
Administration in the University of California) , under whom 
I served as a police officer for eight years, were the prime 
factors in its inception and subsequent development. 

The reader will find no difficulty in entrusting his confi- 
dence to Chapter X, "Police Communication under Disaster 
Conditions," and Chapter XIII, "Foreign Police Communica- 
tion Systems," which represent the results of extensive inquiry 
by Mr. Milton Chernin, Research Associate in the Bureau of 
Public Administration, University of California. The advice 
and counsel of Lieutenant-Colonel J. 0. Mauburgne, U. S. A., 
Ninth Corps Area, in charge of military communications 
along the Pacific Coast, were of great assistance in the prepa- 
ration of the chapter dealing with the operation of the police 
communication system under disaster conditions; the discus- 
sion of this subject is in large measure a reflection of his ex- 


x Preface 

pert opinion in this field. In the assembling of material for 
Chapter XIII, I am heavily indebted to the Department of 
State and the Consular Service for their efforts in obtaining 
with extraordinary completeness detailed information con- 
cerning the framework and characteristics of police communi- 
cation systems in all major foreign capitals. 

The list of persons who have assisted in my undertaking is 
extremely large, yet it would be difficult to close without at 
least an expression of thanks to a few of them. These include 
J. A. Greening, Chief of Police of Berkeley, California, whose 
advice and cooperation were of great value throughout the 
entire project. Lieutenant Kenneth R. Cox, formerly of the 
Detroit Police Department (now communication officer at 
Berkeley, California), and undoubtedly the principal Amer- 
ican authority on the police radio system, generously lent 
of his time and expert knowledge. Thanks are due Professor 
Bert Wentworth and J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the Bu- 
reau of Investigation of the United States Department of 
Justice, Washington, D. C., for their assistance in presenting 
Chapter XI, on communication and the problems of distant 

Mr. F. C. Brandeburg, commercial representative of the 
Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company, San Francisco, 
and the members of the eastern staff of the Bell Telephone 
Laboratories, manifested an unusual degree of cooperation in 
placing at our disposal information hitherto unpublished con- 
cerning the use of the telephone and the teletypewriter in 
police service. Mr. Gustav F. Bauer, of the National Police 
Signal Company, Buffalo, N. Y., supplied invaluable techni- 
cal data with reference to the installation of telephone and 
recall equipment on the police beat. The Holophane Com- 
pany, Inc., the National Radio Institute, the Corning Glass 
Works, the American District Telegraph Company, the 
Western Union Telegraph Company, the Pacific Radio Trades 
Association, and others, were generously helpful. 

Credit is due Professor Samuel C. May, Director of the Bu- 
reau of Public Administration, University of California, for 

Preface xi 

the financial assistance which made possible the publication 
of this material, as well as much of the work entailed in col- 
lecting and organizing it for presentation. I am obligated also 
to Mrs. Muriel Hunter, of the Bureau of Public Administra- 
tion staff, who labored industriously in the final preparation 
of the manuscript for publication. 

In a treatise of this kind, a basic principle of police opera- 
tion must not only be recognized, but must also, because of 
its importance as a "base-line" for the discussion, be given 
definite expression. It is this : Performance in emergencies is 
taken throughout as the criterion for all communication ac- 
tivities ; since, if a crisis can be met, the accommodation of 
routine business must follow as a matter of course. 



E CHOICE of communication facilities for the administra- 
tion of police departments is dependent, in large measure, 
upon the means of transportation and of transmitting mes- 
sages that are available to the criminal world. It is essential 
to successful police operation to "keep one jump ahead of" 
criminals in all manner of equipment, because these enemies 
of public order take advantage of every new device which may 
assist them in the pursuit of their lawless occupations. The 
earliest police organizations employed simple methods of com- 
municating with their various members, utilizing little more 
than the military sentry-to-sentry calling system. Although 
such measures seem crude in comparison with the systems in 
use today, they served their purpose, for the criminal had no 
instruments for conquering time and space superior to those 
available to the officers of the law. As transportation and com- 
munication facilities improved, however, it became necessary 
for the police to avail themselves of the new equipment in 
order to cope with the criminals who seized upon these inven- 
tions to further their own purposes. 

With the introduction of the automobile, and its increasing 
utilization by all members of society, rapid communication 
service became absolutely indispensable to law-enforcement 
officials. The necessity has mothered many inventions, and now 
there is no lack of scientific methods which may be employed 
by the police in the apprehension of lawbreakers. Through the 
modern telephone system, direct contact is possible between 
the citizen and the police ; various other media convey the re- 
ported information from the central station to the patrolmen. 
By means of motorcycles and high-powered automobiles, the 
man on the beat is able to reach the scene of the crime or pur- 
sue the criminal. If the perpetrator escapes beyond the limits 
of the local jurisdiction, radio and teletype can carry the 
necessary information to neighboring localities, to the entire 
state most nearly concerned, or even beyond these boundaries 
into other states. 

xiv Introduction 

The citizen and taxpayer may be interested in the fact that 
modern equipment, if carefully selected and distributed, will 
effect an appreciable economy in the operation of a police de- 
partment. The reserve force which formerly had to be kept 
at the station house may be dispensed with, for modern sig- 
naling equipment will summon the men on the beats for this 
purpose at a moment's notice. Call cars which are held at 
the station to respond in emergencies are no longer required, 
and even the squad cars, still considered essential in some 
departments, are unnecessary if the patrol cars are properly 
equipped. Rapid concentration of the available forces at any 
point and at any time is possible through modern communi- 
cation instruments. 

Every community, however small or large, has within its 
confines the foundations of a police communication system. 
The factory whistle, the lighting facilities of the municipality 
or county, amateur wireless stations, and the telephone and 
telegraph services may all be used, separately or collectively, 
by the policemen in fulfilling the intercommunication needs 
required in giving aid to the people they serve. 

Unfortunately, the police have been handicapped in their 
efforts to plan efficient communication systems by a lack of 
published works on the subject. Every department has been 
forced to struggle with the solution of its communication 
problem independently; little or no opportunity has been 
offered for one organization to become acquainted with the 
practices and equipment employed by others and thus to 
profit by their successes and failures. Large sums of money 
and much effort have been wasted in fruitless and repetitious 
experimentation which might well have been avoided if the 
accumulated knowledge in this field had been available. 

Too long have the police employed this trial-and-error 
method in attacking their communication problem. Scien- 
tific practices and principles have been developed in other 
branches of the police service with marked results. Criminal 
identification, for example, is no longer a guessing contest : 
it is an exact science. Scientific investigative methods have 

Introduction xv 

been introduced into the police service, skilled technicians are 
now employed in police departments to conduct scientific 
crime-detection laboratories, and a substantial body of refer- 
ence works has been developed in this field, to which other 
scientists are constantly contributing. In recent years, the 
traffic problem also has been scientifically attacked, and ac- 
curate measures may now be used to determine what must be 
done in planning for the control of traffic. 

It is timely and important that the scientific achievements 
of communication experts in every part of the world should 
be critically reviewed and presented in such form that their 
special knowledge may be made available to police and public 
officials. The rapid advances which have been made in com- 
munication methods are traceable to the individual efforts 
of countless persons in every section of the globe. What the 
policeman uses in China may not necessarily be applicable 
elsewhere, but it may contain the germ of an idea which, 
associated with other ideas, may prove enormously useful in 
improving the service of some other country. Engineers 
everywhere have contributed greatly toward the improve- 
ment of the communication branch of police service by sup- 
plying ingenious devices and efficient methods. Visual and 
audible signals, street and office telephone systems, depart- 
mental and interdepartmental teletypewriter service, secret 
alarm devices, and the radio all contribute valuable assist- 
ance to the officers of the law, and, paradoxically, reduce the 
cost of police service to the taxpayer. 

In his description of the problem encountered by police in 
the communication field and in his presentation of the instru- 
ments, practices, and techniques employed by police in this 
country and abroad, Mr. Leonard has supplied public and 
law-enforcement officials with a much needed tool. By the 
critical manner in which he has treated the material, he has 
added another police function to the list of those that are now 
in the hands of scientists. From this summary of the many 
methods available to police organizations, it is evident that, 
from now on, no communication system should be installed 

xiv Introduction 

The citizen and taxpayer may be interested in the fact that 
modern equipment, if carefully selected and distributed, will 
effect an appreciable economy in the operation of a police de- 
partment. The reserve force which formerly had to be kept 
at the station house may be dispensed with, for modern sig- 
naling equipment will summon the men on the beats for this 
purpose at a moment's notice. Call cars which are held at 
the station to respond in emergencies are no longer required, 
and even the squad cars, still considered essential in some 
departments, are unnecessary if the patrol cars are properly 
equipped. Rapid concentration of the available forces at any 
point and at any time is possible through modern communi- 
cation instruments. 

Every community, however small or large, has within its 
confines the foundations of a police communication system. 
The factory whistle, the lighting facilities of the municipality 
or county, amateur wireless stations, and the telephone and 
telegraph services may all be used, separately or collectively, 
by the policemen in fulfilling the intercommunication needs 
required in giving aid to the people they serve. 

Unfortunately, the police have been handicapped in their 
efforts to plan efficient communication systems by a lack of 
published works on the subject. Every department has been 
forced to struggle with the solution of its communication 
problem independently; little or no opportunity has been 
offered for one organization to become acquainted with the 
practices and equipment employed by others and thus to 
profit by their successes and failures. Large sums of money 
and much effort have been wasted in fruitless and repetitious 
experimentation which might well have been avoided if the 
accumulated knowledge in this field had been available. 

Too long have the police employed this trial-and-error 
method in attacking their communication problem. Scien- 
tific practices and principles have been developed in other 
branches of the police service with marked results. Criminal 
identification, for example, is no longer a guessing contest : 
it is an exact science. Scientific investigative methods have 

Introduction xv 

been introduced into the police service, skilled technicians are 
now employed in police departments to conduct scientific 
crime-detection laboratories, and a substantial body of refer- 
ence works has been developed in this field, to which other 
scientists are constantly contributing. In recent years, the 
traffic problem also has been scientifically attacked, and ac- 
curate measures may now be used to determine what must be 
done in planning for the control of traffic. 

It is timely and important that the scientific achievements 
of communication experts in every part of the world should 
be critically reviewed and presented in such form that their 
special knowledge may be made available to police and public 
officials. The rapid advances which have been made in com- 
munication methods are traceable to the individual efforts 
of countless persons in every section of the globe. What the 
policeman uses in China may not necessarily be applicable 
elsewhere, but it may contain the germ of an idea which, 
associated with other ideas, may prove enormously useful in 
improving the service of some other country. Engineers 
everywhere have contributed greatly toward the improve- 
ment of the communication branch of police service by sup- 
plying ingenious devices and efficient methods. Visual and 
audible signals, street and office telephone systems, depart- 
mental and interdepartmental teletypewriter service, secret 
alarm devices, and the radio all contribute valuable assist- 
ance to the officers of the law, and, paradoxically, reduce the 
cost of police service to the taxpayer. 

In his description of the problem encountered by police in 
the communication field and in his presentation of the instru- 
ments, practices, and techniques employed by police in this 
country and abroad, Mr. Leonard has supplied public and 
law-enforcement officials with a much needed tool. By the 
critical manner in which he has treated the material, he has 
added another police function to the list of those that are now 
in the hands of scientists. From this summary of the many 
methods available to police organizations, it is evident that, 
from now on, no communication system should be installed 

xvi Introduction 

until the installation plan has been carefully studied and ap- 
proved by specialists. 

The future is filled with great possibilities. Even today the 
developments in this science are so rapid that it is impossible 
to present every new invention and practice in any book. 
Radio and television are only in their swaddling clothes, and, 
according to the best-informed men, there will be varied and 
rapid advances in all phases of communication technique. Mr. 
Leonard has made a valiant effort to include all the latest de- 
vices offered for police use, but it may be that some have been 
neglected. It will always be necessary for the police to be 
alert for new developments in order to combat with superior 
methods and superior equipment the efforts of the criminal 
to fasten himself parasitically upon our society. 




IN THE MODERNIZATION of police departments probably the 
factor that has played the greatest role is communication. 
The history of its development is not a long and continuous 
one, for the ancient Greeks and Romans communicated with 
as great facility as did George Washington. Furthermore, it 
was not until the British Parliament was led to enact the 
sweeping reforms of Sir Robert Peel in 1828 that police or- 
ganization became coherent enough to make use of formal 
communicative facilities. Peel's reforms established an agency 
the development of which thereafter could parallel closely 
the advancement in scientific communication. This first pro- 
fessional police force, of uniformed constables, had a day-and- 
night responsibility for keeping the peace and apprehending 
lawbreakers. In 1845 New York set up a force like London's ; 
and other American cities soon followed the example of New 


Almost coiiicidentally with the establishment of professional 
police departments came the application of the electric tele- 
graph to police communication. The Wheatstone and Cooke 
telegraph had been installed on most of the English railroads 
in the years between 1837 and 1842, and not long after the 
telegraph was completed on the Great Western road its use- 
fulness in police operations was dramatically demonstrated. 
A murderer, fleeing from his crime, boarded a first-class car- 
riage at Slough, eighteen miles from Paddington. Once in the 
carriage, in a train moving rapidly toward London, the man 
breathed freely, for escape seemed certain. He reckoned with- 
out the telegraph, which had already borne to London the 
news of the murder and a description of the fugitive. Within 
three minutes, a return message announced to the local offi- 
cials the arrival of the train and the arrest of the murderer. 


2 Police Communication Systems 

The publicity given to this incident had results which were 
felt in police circles. In 1846, the Central Police Station at 
Scotland Yard was connected by wire to the Central Office 
of the Electric Telegraph Company, and shortly afterward 
the district police stations also were thus connected to it. 

The development of district telegraph service in London 
and of telegraph communication exchanges in various cities 
of the United States 1 enabled citizens to get in touch with the 
police stations ; this use of the telegraph, however, never be- 
came of great importance in police service. The rapid con- 
struction of telegraph wires between important cities also 
provided means by which police forces in various parts of the 
country could have cooperated in police matters ; but they did 
not do so. It was not until after the formation of the Interna- 
tional Association of Chiefs of Police in 1893 that the provin- 
cialism and exclusiveness of the numerous American police 
forces began to be broken down. In fact, the lack of coopera- 
tion between police departments in the war against crime was 
one of the main causative factors which led to the setting up 
of this association. 

When the telegraph was first utilized by police depart- 
ments, the practice was to employ telegraph operators at 
headquarters, as members of the force, to transmit and receive 
the Morse signals. In 1858, the firm of C. T. and J. N. Chester 
constructed, for the New York City Police Department, a dial 
telegraph which enabled policemen who did not know the 
Morse code to send messages over the wires. Through its use 
the police did good work in the draft riots in New York in 
1863. The use of the dial telegraph was adopted rapidly by 
other forces. In an address delivered before the International 
Association of Chiefs of Police in 1903, Chief Francis O'Neill, 
of Chicago, gave a notably good description of these instru- 
ments : 

"The introduction of electricity as a means of communica- 
tion between stations was the first notable advance in the im- 
provement of police methods. Not many here will remember 

1 A. E. Costello, Our Police Protectors, p. 31. 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 3 

the time when the manipulation of the dial telegraph by the 
station-keeper while sending messages excited the greatest 
wonder and admiration. The alphabet and numerals in two 
concentric circles were so arranged that the operator spelled 
out the words by pressing the buttons. The finger or arrow in 
the center of the dial rattled noisily around and pointed out 
on both instruments (the sender and receiver) the numbers 
or letters indicated by the touch of the station-keeper. 

"So little was the means of sending messages by telegraph 
understood that, on one occasion, a cabman rushed into a Chi- 
cago Police Station, and, handing the station-keeper a written 
description of his rig which had just been stolen, urgently 
requested that a message be sent immediately to all stations. 
The latter took the slip of paper and put his instrument in 
connection with its destination and after spelling out the 
message on his dial, hung on a spindle the piece of paper 
which the cabman had given him. The man lounged around 
for some time, evidently restless and unsatisfied. At last his 
patience was exhausted and he belched out, 'Ain't you going 
to send that dispatch f The station-keeper politely informed 
him that he had sent it. 'No, you hain't,' replied the indignant 
man, 'there it is on the hook.' ' : 

The desire for speed caused the police to readopt the Morse 
code after using the dial for a generation. "The dial was su- 
perseded by the ticker in Chicago in the year 1876, and all 
station-keepers, who were by this time called desk sergeants, 
were required to take up the immediate study of the Morse 
system of telegraphy." 3 

Although the telegraph was adopted for communicating 
between the precinct stations and central headquarters before 
the middle of the nineteenth century, the problem of com- 
munication between the patrolman on the beat and the pre- 
cinct station received little consideration until the 1880's. 
Each shift of patrolmen was assembled at its precinct station 
before going on duty, the orders of the day were read, and the 

2 Proceedings of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 
1903. *Ibid. 

4 Police Communication Systems 

men were then marched to their beats by their roundsman. 
From that time until the end of the shift each patrolman was 
essentially dependent upon his own resources and isolated 
from the rest of the force except at periodic meetings with the 
roundsman or patrol sergeant. 

The disadvantages of this system were obvious. There was 
no way of knowing whether the patrolman was diligently pa- 
trolling his round, for every popular officer was promptly 
informed by his friends on the beat of the near approach of 
the roundsman. Neither was there any way of making avail- 
ble to the officer such information of happenings on his beat 
as might be reported to the precinct station. Nor was an officer 
available in the event of an emergency, unless he happened 
by extreme coincidence to be at the scene of that emergency. 
If an officer on a beat needed help from his fellow policemen, 
he had great difficulty in getting it. He could use his voice, 
whistle, or baton as a distress signal, but unless another officer 
was within earshot such signals were ineffective. If he suc- 
ceeded in arresting a dangerous or unruly person he entered 
a new realm of trouble, for there were no police conveyances 
which he could summon to take the prisoner to the station and 
no means of calling such a convenience, even if it had existed. 

The lack of means of communication between the precinct 
station and the patrolman cannot be explained by the non- 
existence of apparatus for this purpose. Telegraphic fire- 
alarm signal systems, which could have been adapted to police 
operations, had been in use in the United States since 1851. 
In fact, Dr. W. F. Charming suggested the use of the tele- 
graph for fire-alarm purposes as early as 1839, when the tele- 
graph itself was a crude instrument. Nothing came of this 
suggestion, however, until after the publication of an article 
by Dr. Channing in the Boston Advertiser in 1845, in which 
he outlined a method of applying the telegraph to fire alarms. 
In the winter of 1847-48, Moses G. Farmer carried out this 
suggestion by constructing the first machine for giving an 
electric fire alarm. In 1851, Dr. Channing and Professor 
Farmer installed a fire-alarm system in Boston, based on the 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 5 

former's original proposal ; it consisted of numerous box sta- 
tions, connected by telegraph circuit with the central office, 
from which all alarm signals received from the boxes were 
sent out over other circuits to the bell towers, so that the signal 
from the box would be simultaneously struck, electrically, by 
every fire-alarm bell in the city. 

Although New York City officials had experimented with 
the idea of adapting the telegraph to fire-alarm purposes be- 
tween 1846 and 1850, nothing permanent had come of their 
work. For the evolution of the practical machinery required 
for this purpose, credit must be given to the joint efforts of 
Dr. Channing and Professor Farmer. Their patents were 
acquired in 1855 and 1859 by John N. Gamewell, of South 
Carolina, who devoted the rest of his life to the development 
of fire-alarm and police signaling systems. The Boston system 
with some improvements was adopted by Philadelphia in 
1855. St. Louis signed a contract for it in 1856, although the 
plan was not used until 1858. New Orleans and Baltimore 
adopted the system in 1860, but the Civil War seriously ar- 
rested the development. New York City did not adopt an elec- 
tric fire-alarm system until 1869. 

Between 1852 and 1881, 106 electric fire-alarm systems 
were installed in the United States, and by 1881 these sys- 
tems had reached a high stage of mechanical development. 4 
Few police forces had anything like them. The fundamental 
reason for this lag in police-communication development lies 
in the historic conception of the police function and the basic 
differences between police and fire organization. For cen- 
turies, people had thought of police work in terms of the 
petty constable or sleepy night watchman walking his round. 
The uniformed patrolman was merely a more efficient night 

4 In 1902, the United States Bureau of the Census published a Survey 
of the Electrical Industry of the United States (Bulletin No. 11), which 
deals with municipal electric fire-alarm and police-patrol systems. This 
report gives in detail the number of installations of police and fire-alarm 
signals year by year from 1852 to 1902. By 1866 the fire-alarm signal 
boxes in Boston were automatic. In 1867 the automatic features were 
improved, and in 1869 the "noninterference pull" was invented, which 
prevented interference with a signal being sent in from a box. 

6 Police Communication Systems 

watchman. What need was there for other police equipment 
than a badge and club, a pair of handcuffs and a whistle ? The 
chief duty of a policeman was thought to be making the round 
of his beat, suppressing crime by his presence, and appre- 
hending such criminals as he might, by extreme coincidence, 
"catch in the act." The need for a complex communication 
system which would serve as the central nervous system of a 
highly integrated organism for the suppression and preven- 
tion of crime was not perceived until after police organiza- 
tions began to move from under the rigid control of political 
officials. With the introduction of some measure of civil-serv- 
ice reform and the consequent development of the idea that 
police work was a specialized profession, police communica- 
tion began to receive the attention it deserved. 

Basic differences between the centralized organization of 
the fire department and the dispersed organization of the po- 
lice department also assisted in the diverse development of 
their respective communication systems. Firemen were cen- 
trally situated in their stations, not patrolling the streets 
looking for fires to put out; it was essential, therefore, to 
bring the news of a fire to their notice in the shortest possible 
time ; the dangers of delay were obvious to the most indiffer- 
ent person ; the need for electric fire-alarm systems was easily 
perceived and their adoption easily procured. The need for 
electric police communication was not so obvious. Policemen 
were constantly walking their beats and were supposed to 
come upon the criminal while he was committing a crime. A 
person who needed a policeman could either run to a police 
station or take the chance of meeting one on the street. Delay 
in informing the police of a crime report did not seem of such 
great importance. The adoption of police communication 
equipment was therefore greatly delayed. 

Adaptation of telegraphic fire-alarm boxes to police pur- 
poses was early undertaken by the Gamewell Company and 
others. The first electric police-communication system of rec- 
ord was installed in 1867. Between 1867 and 1882 only seven 
more systems were put in operation. After this rather slow 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 1 

beginning, however, installations became more numerous : 56 
systems were installed from 1882 to 1891, 76 systems in the 
next decade, and 84 new installations were made in the years 
from 1892 to 1902. When the census of municipal electric 
fire-alarm and police-patrol systems was taken in 1902, re- 
ports were received from 148 electric police-patrol systems. 
Of the total number, 125 were exclusively signaling systems, 
19 were exclusively telephone systems, and 3 were a combina- 
tion of these two. (The remaining system reported only "tele- 
graphing boxes.") Although the systems were well distributed 
among cities of various sizes, the communities of 100,000 
population and more had so large a proportion of the equip- 
ment that the use of police boxes was obviously still limited 
to the larger metropolitan centers. In fact, 68.6 per cent of the 
signal boxes and 68.2 per cent of the telephone-system boxes 
were in cities of 100,000 and more, with only 3 per cent, and 
0.7 per cent, respectively, in cities of less than 10,000. Cities 
of the largest class (100,000 and more) received and sent 77.7 
per cent of all police calls and 87.3 per cent of telephone mes- 
ages. 5 "Thus," stated the Census report, "there appears to be 
a large field for the introduction of telephones for police serv- 
ice in the smaller communities, where they would be most 
useful, the number of officers being few and the population 
and dwellings being sparsely scattered over a large area." 

The first police boxes utilized telegraphy and established 
one-way communication between the officer on the beat and 
the precinct station. The apparatus consisted of electric sig- 
nal mechanisms which were placed at stated points along the 
route of the beat patrolman and were connected by suitable 
circuit wires to headquarters or the precinct station. Some 

5 The Census figures show the following result. 

Number of 
cities having 

Per cent 
of total 




More than 100,000 
50,000 and less than 100,000 
25,000 and less than 50,000 
10,000 and less than 25,000 
Less than 10,000 

8 Police Communication Systems 

of the boxes were simply placed against a wall or on a lamp 
post, but even early practice favored specially constructed 
booths on the curbs or at street corners, in which signal boxes 
were placed. As subsequently improved, the apparatus en- 
abled the policeman on his beat to send a variety of signals 
to his headquarters. An ordinary duty call, which he was re- 
quired to make every hour, could be sent by merely opening 
the box with a specially constructed key. This automatically 
registered the number of the box, together with the time, on a 
tape in the terminal apparatus at headquarters. Other signals, 
such as wagon calls, ambulance calls, and calls for help, were 
sent by opening the inner door of the box, setting a pointer at 
the required call, and pulling the releasing mechanism. For 
this purpose, signal boxes were manufactured which accom- 
modated seven or more different calls. In Berkeley, Calif., for 
example, prior to replacement by other equipment, boxes were 
employed by which it was possible to transmit to headquar- 
ters seven types of call, including three report calls for the 
three patrol shifts and four emergency calls f ast wagon, 
slow wagon, ambulance, and telephone. At headquarters the 
receipt of these emergency signals on the tape was usually 
accompanied by the ringing of a bell or the flashing of a light, 
which ensured prompt attention to them. 

Originally, these boxes seem to have been used only in out- 
lying districts, where beats were large and patrolmen widely 
separated from each other. A description of the various pre- 
cincts of New York City in 1884 mentions telegraphic police 
boxes as being used only in such precincts. Thus, in describing 
the Thirty-second precinct, Costello says "This is a mounted- 
police precinct and even the horsemen are aided by boxes 
from which they can send necessary signals to the station 
house." 6 The Thirty-fifth precinct "is a mounted one, with 
boxes for signals from far-off parts." 7 The utility of these 
boxes and the even greater need for them in busy parts of the 
city soon became apparent, and their use was no longer lim- 
ited to outlying districts. 

8 Op. cit., p. 388. 7 Ibid. 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 9 

Thus the introduction of the telegraphic police box ended 
the isolation of the policeman on his beat and enabled him to 
utilize the reserve strength and equipment of the whole de- 
partment in the performance of his duty. It did not, however, 
enable his headquarters to communicate with him. Nor did 
it furnish a ready means by which the general public could 
promptly get in touch with the police in case of need, even 
though certain reputable citizens along every beat had special 
keys to the police boxes, by means of which they could send 
an emergency call to the precinct station and so obtain the 
services of a policeman. These necessary and desirable fea- 
tures of police communication awaited the invention and com- 
mercial introduction of the telephone. 


Fortunately, the telephone was invented and perfected about 
the same time that the police began actively to adopt and in- 
stall signaling systems. Since the telephone was only in its 
experimental phases and the telegraph was already well es- 
tablished as a workable police-communication instrument, the 
telephone for several years remained an auxiliary to tele- 
graph facilities. Police departments, however, did have tele- 
phones very soon after exchange service was made available, 
especially in the smaller towns and cities which had not de- 
veloped extensive telegraph systems. At first, the police tele- 
phone service did not differ greatly from the service as it was 
used by the public. The metropolitan police in Washington, 
D. C., subscribed on April 11, 1878, to fifteen telephones, 
which were installed in eight precinct headquarters, at the 
home of the superintendent of police, and in headquarters in 
suburban communities. By 1880, two precincts in New York 
were listed in the telephone directory, but these were evi- 
dently disconnected soon afterward, for they were not listed 
in the directory for 1882. In the same year, Inspector Byrnes, 
the newly appointed head of the New York Detective Bureau, 
established an office in the Stock Exchange Building, which 
was connected by telephone with every bank and banking 

10 Police Communication Systems 

house in the lower part of New York. The speed with which 
he was enabled to send an officer to any of these places in an 
emergency contributed in large measure to the decrease of 
bank robberies in the city. 

In 1882, the Brooklyn Police Headquarters was listed in 
the city's telephone directory, and about the same time, New 
Brunswick, N. J., had several telephones listed under "Po- 
lice Department." Brooklyn, according to the evidence, had 
developed a usable telephone system before any other section 
in the New York metropolitan area ; an editorial in the New 
York Tribune for July 20, 1886, admonishing New York of- 
ficials for not making use of the telephone as a means of com- 
munication, said: "... this wonderful invention has been used 
for six years to connect the police central office in Brooklyn 
with the police stations . . . and its advantages have been 
found too great to enumerate. If they [the New York police] 
wish to keep up with the times, they will put in telephones 
without delay. Doubtless the time may come when every pa- 
trolman's beat will be furnished with one of these instru- 
ments, so that the policeman can at once give notice to the 
station of any occurrence demanding immediate attention." 

Apparently, the New York Police Department, acting on 
this suggestion, made use of the telephone, for the Police re- 
port for 1889 mentioned that exchange service connecting the 
offices of the chief officers of the department at Police Head- 
quarters with each other, with the telegraph office, and with 
the general exchange system had been in operation for two 
years, and was used in transmitting a great many messages 
not requiring a written record. 

The telephone was early used to supplement the deficien- 
cies of the telegraphic police boxes and thus establish two-way 
communication between the station house and the officer on 
the beat. The evidence seems to indicate that the first com- 
bination telegraph and telephone police box was introduced 
in the city of Chicago in 1880 by J. P. Barret, then superin- 
tendent of the electrical department of that city. The system 
was first installed in one of the most turbulent districts and 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 11 

at once increased tremendously the efficiency of the force, 
chiefly in making possible a rapid concentration at any 
troubled point. Its success was so rapid that by 1893 no fewer 
than 1000 street stations had been installed all over the city of 
Chicago, and several hundred private boxes besides. The Chi- 
cago installation consisted of a call box in which were placed 
both signaling apparatus and a telephone. Numbered keys 

From an old print; about 1889. 
Early methods of police communication and transportation. 

which opened any of the stations and boxes were given to the 
patrolmen of the district and to responsible citizens, whose 
names were carefully recorded. A citizen's key turned in only 
a call for help and was locked in the box until an officer ar- 
rived to release it. The patrolman's key gave him access to an 
inner box from which he could transmit calls, signals, and 
reports by means of the telegraphic signaling apparatus and 
the telephones. 

The value of the police telephone system was dramatically 
brought to the attention of the public by the prompt capture, 
through its use, of the perpetrators of a brutal murder. On 

12 Police Communication Systems 

the evening of September 2, 1889, Walter Koeller, lying sick 
in his room in an East Chicago boarding house, was stabbed 
to death by two young men who called upon him. The land- 
lady, startled by the cries of the victim, ran from the house in 
search of a policeman, but when she returned with an officer a 
few minutes later the murderers had fled. The officer rushed 
to the patrol box and notified his station of the crime, sending 
a good description of the assassins, which the landlady had 
supplied, and mentioned the fact that one of them carried a 
suitcase. A message describing the two men and the nature of 
their crime was forwarded by headquarters to every precinct 
in the city, so that in less than an hour from the time of the 
murder it was known in all police stations. This message was 
in turn transmitted to every police officer on duty, when he 
called in to make his hourly report. At eleven o'clock an officer 
arrested in a railroad yard two suspects who answered the 
description, and a few hours later Inspector Shea had a full 
confession of the murder. Thus, by means of a new communica- 
tion facility, a crime was cleared which might have remained 
a mystery, for had the men succeeded in leaving Chicago, it is 
improbable that they would ever have been discovered. 

The Chicago system was adopted in Milwaukee in 1883. 
Brooklyn followed in February, 1884, with many improve- 
ments, replacing the unsightly booth by iron boxes, similar to 
firm-alarm boxes. Philadelphia, however, which also installed 
its police-patrol system in 1884, adhered to the booth type. 
Since then, the police patrol-box systems have been extended 
year by year. With the rapid expansion of telephone service, 
information relative to law violations was received with less 
loss of time, and an increasing number of complaints and re- 
ports of minor violations began coming in over the telephone. 
These changing conditions required a gradual but sure im- 
provement in operating facilities in order that the increased 
traffic might be efficiently taken care of. As we have seen, in 
1902 a total of 148 such systems were reported to the Census 
Bureau. In 1907, there were 226 ; in 1912, 319; and in 1917, 
the last year for which we have census figures, there were 428 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 13 

system, 383 of which were exclusively police-patrol systems 
and 45 were combined fire-alarm and police-patrol systems. 

With the introduction of the private branch exchange, the 
telephone became the chief communication instrument of the 
police. Given an instrument capable of transmitting speech, 
the problem was to devise means whereby correspondents 
could be placed readily in communication with each other. 
The earliest application of the telephone necessitated a wire 
extending from each subscriber to every other one with whom 
communication was desired. The impossible complexity of 
such a system became apparent in the earliest days of the 
telephone, and it was decided to extend the line of each sub- 
scriber to a point selected centrally with reference to the en- 
tire group and then devise apparatus whereby any pair of 
subscribers could at pleasure be placed in mutual talking re- 
lations. Various forms of switching apparatus were developed 
in attempts to solve this problem. The first switchboards were 
limited in capacity and were inadequate for any but the 
smallest number of subscribers. The first telephone switch- 
board installed in San Francisco was a crude affair consisting 
of two boards nailed to brackets on a wall, along each of which 
was arranged a row of brass clips. Each clip was the terminal 
of a telephone line, and in the center of each clip a hole was 
drilled to receive a plug. A connection was made between two 
subscribers' lines when the proper clips were linked by means 
of two brass plugs joined with a piece of cotton-insulated 
wire. Equipment was subsequently developed which would 
accommodate the grouping of the lines of a large number of 
subscribers in front of the operator. Inventive ingenuity had 
been so successful that by 1896 there were in use several 
switchboard exchanges accommodating from 5000 to 6000 

With the development of these private exchanges, and the 
consequent engineering of private telephone systems designed 
to take care of the communication requirements of large 
commercial organizations, the way was opened for a more 
thorough study of systems especially suitable for police work. 

14 Police Communication Systems 

It remained only to study the communication problems of the 
various police departments, large or small, in order to design 
a telephone communication system adequate for all ordinary 
needs. The telephone now rapidly began to replace the tele- 
graph as the basic police communication facility. The police 
department of New York City, after a demonstration of 
the value of the telephone in police work at the time of the 
Columbian celebration in Chicago in 1892, installed a pri- 
vate switchboard and extensive telephone facilities in 1893. 
By 1903, "a remarkable proof of the enlarged scope given 
the [police] service by the use of the modern telephone ex- 
change," in the words of the Census report, was "afforded 
by the latest development of the telephone police signal sys- 
tem recently put in operation in the city of New York." This 
system was determined upon early in 1903 after several con- 
ferences between Professor G-. F. Sever, consulting electrical 
engineer of the city, and representatives of the New York 
Telephone Company. It was decided to install in the Borough 
of Manhattan 661 telephone stations, from 20 to 30 in each 
of the 29 police-patrol precincts. After a careful investiga- 
tion, it was decided to eliminate from this system all signal 
appliances apart from the telephone itself, as it was held that 
everything provided for in the ordinary combination signal 
and telephone!) ox, and much more, could be done through the 
telephone station. 

A station consisted of a telephone transmitter and receiver 
and a call bell placed in a cast-iron box fastened to the side of 
a building. Six stations comprised one circuit. Each patrol- 
man had a key and was required to report at a designated 
time each hour. If he was delayed more than fifteen minutes, 
a roundsman was sent out to investigate the cause of the de- 
lay. There was little chance of collusion, because the central 
operator could recognize the voices of all the men and could 
tell by the signal from what circuit the call was made. In each 
precinct station house a small switchboard was installed and 
the operator of this board took down and noted the reports 
of policemen, the time of the calls, and other details. 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 15 

By 1905 the installation of the police-patrol telephone sys- 
tem was completed in Manhattan. It gave such general satis- 
faction that in September of that year the extension of the 
system to the eight precincts of the Bronx was approved. 
In the same year, it was recommended that the old signal sys- 
tem in Brooklyn, with its ancient telegraph equipment and 
iron wires strung on poles, be replaced by a telephone system, 
the report pointing out that to renew this system and place 
the wires underground would be enormously expensive and 
would take years ; 8 but this recommendation was not carried 
out until later. 

Since 1905, the use of telephones for both police and fire- 
alarm signaling has steadily increased. Because the Census 
figures do not separate the detailed data, it is impossible to 
discuss the police use of telephones apart from their use for 
fire-alarm purposes. 9 The data in the 1917 Census report, the 
latest available on this subject, showed 86,759 signaling boxes 
and 8094 telephone boxes used by the police and fire depart- 
ments. The use of telephone boxes in both police and fire-alarm 
systems was increasing much more rapidly than that of sig- 
naling boxes, telephone boxes having increased 84.7 per cent 
between 1907 and 1917 and signaling boxes only 49.3 per cent 
in the same period. Telephone boxes, moreover, were used 
much oftener than were the signaling boxes. The 1902 Census 
report of municipal police and fire-alarm signaling systems, 
which contained more nearly complete data on the subject 
than any subsequent report, contained an analysis of the mes- 
sages sent over the police systems. In that year, there were in 
police service 9476 signaling boxes, 1170 telephone boxes, and 
1998 special telephones. Of the 40,626,505 police messages re- 
ceived and sent in that year, 23,393,812 were telephonic and 
17,232,693 were signal-box messages and other kinds. "If . . . 
the number of special telephones be added to the number of 
telephoning boxes or stations," said the report, "it would ap- 

8 Police Department of the City of New York, Annual Eeport, 1905. 

9 Censuses of municipal electric fire-alarm and police-patrol signaling 
systems were published in 1907, 1912, and 1917. 

16 Police Communication Systems 

pear that the 3,168 telephones are to be credited each with 
7,384 calls sent or received, or about four times as many as the 
signaling boxes, a striking demonstration of the prominent 
part played by the telephone in the police patrol system." 

The rapid replacement of the telegraph by the telephone as 
the fundamental police communicating medium is not sur- 
prising. The important question in police work, then as al- 
ways, was how to make the police officer effective as a repres- 
sive or crime-preventing influence and, at the same time, to 
have him available for any emergencies that might arise. If 
the officer remained in precinct headquarters so as to be avail- 
able in an emergency, his influence as a crime deterrent was 
lost. If he walked his beat as an ever-present threat to those 
who would trample on the rights of the ordinary citizen, he 
was almost useless in an emergency unless he happened by 
extreme coincidence to be at the scene of that emergency. 

The introduction of the telephone was a significant step 
forward in solving this basic problem of police management. 
By means of the call box, the officer kept in touch with his 
headquarters regularly, and although it was impossible until 
after the development of recall systems for headquarters to 
get in touch instantly with officers in the field, the routine of 
reporting regularly established a definite connection at cer- 
tain times between the officer and his superiors, who, in the 
interval between calls, might have learned of some occurrence 
which required his attention. Calling times were staggered, so 
that if the officer nearest was not available, other patrolmen, 
reporting from beats near by, could be sent. 

Besides contributing toward the solution of this basic prob- 
lem, the telephone offered the advantages of universal utility 
and extreme flexibility. In order to use the instrument, one 
needed only to know how to talk. When both police and public 
had access to telephone service, news of crime was learned 
quickly by a city's protector and, because of telephone service 
which permitted rapid connection with police officers near 
the scene of crime, the police were able to begin action with a 
minimum of delay. Without telephone service, criminal in- 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 17 

vestigation was a slower procedure. Lack of communication 
facilities extended the escape time of the criminal and often 
important clues were erased before the police even had in- 
formation that the crime had been committed. 


The need for a method by which headquarters could make 
known to the patrolman on the beat its desire to communicate 
with him was solved early in the twentieth century by the ad- 
dition of visual and audible signals to the communication sys- 
tem. One of the first attempts in the country to employ a light 
signal for expediting patrol operations was made by Charles 
Foster, a private night watchman in Los Angeles, Calif. In 
1905, Foster patrolled a section of West Adams Street on a 
bicycle, and was accompanied by a small fox terrier as his 
chief assistant. He soon found that some form of signaling de- 
vice would add to the efficiency of his service and arranged 
with the (then) Home Telephone Company to install red 
lights on nine of its poles at different places in the area which 
he patrolled. As part of his plan, Foster instructed his em- 
ployers to telephone his wife promptly concerning any crime 
or irregularity which should come to their attention. The 
light being wired directly to the Foster home, Mrs. Foster 
played the role of desk sergeant, and in an emergency sig- 
naled to her husband to call her for full particulars. Foster's 
efforts stand out as a significant event in the history of police 
communication, since they mark one of the first known appli- 
cations to police service of the colored-light flashing system. 
In various cities, semaphores and electric lights controlled 
from headquarters were placed on top of the police booths 
or on the lamp posts. When headquarters found it necessary 
to transmit a report or order to a particular patrolman, it 
could notify him by turning on the signal lights. As soon as 
the patrolman noticed the light, or heard the bell which was 
sometimes attached to the signal to make it even more notice- 
able, he called headquarters from the nearest police box and 
received his instructions. He could be informed quickly of 

18 Police Communication Systems 

any matter on his beat requiring his attention, of all general 
alarms, and of such orders as headquarters might desire to 
give. The flexibility and coordination of the police depart- 
ment were enormously increased, for by the use of the recall 
system, headquarters at last had almost as effective control 
over the decentralized patrol force as it had over the men at 
the station house. The problem of how to make the policeman 
available in an emergency while serving as a crime deterrent 
on his beat was thus on the way to a definite solution. 

The first calling signal used by modern police was a single- 
stroke bell in the signal box and was of value only while the 
patrolman was at the box. This was followed by a red-light 
installation, the light signal being mounted above the signal 
box and its operation being under the control of the operator 
at the central station. Such a signal is of value only when an 
officer is actually approaching the signal box. To overcome 
this deficiency, an audible signal was added, usually a bell. 
The audible range of the only type of bell available was lim- 
ited, and this and the maintenance requirements demanded 
by its exposure to the weather were serious handicaps. The 
bell was finally replaced by a signal in which the sound was 
created when a diaphragm was struck rapidly by a vibrating 
hammer or by a motor-driven cam device. Such signals are 
known as horns, and the first-mentioned device has been 
found superior to the latter because it has a tone so distinc- 
tive that it cannot be confused with any other signal. Further- 
more, it has no moving parts in which frictional resistance 
resulting from temperature changes or lack of proper lubri- 
cant can affect its operation, and the electrical energy re- 
quired to operate it is reasonably low. 

Improvements were soon made in recall-signal installations. 
The practice of placing the colored light on the patrol-box 
post proved unfortunate. The blinking signal was generally 
observed by the public before the patrolman noticed it, and 
consequently he usually found a large and expectant crowd 
gathered about the box when he approached it. This difficulty 
was solved by suspending the light over the center of street 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 19 

intersections, which increased the visibility factor so far as 
the patrolman was concerned, did not interfere with traffic 
signals, and was not so conspicuous to the public. 

In 1911, Police Chief E. A. Gravenor, of Camden, N. J., 
in an address at the annual convention of the International 
Association of Chiefs of Police, described with much enthu- 
siasm the colored-light recall system which had recently been 
installed by his department. The lights were suspended from 
22 to 25 feet above the surface of the street and were arranged 
in circuits of five or more lights, with a total of ten circuits 
for the entire city. With the control mechanism at headquar- 
ters, it was possible to switch on any combination of circuits 
from one to ten and burn them steadily or flash them accord- 
ing to a prearranged code. 

Improvements in the type of electric globes and reflectors 
used in the signal equipment increased visibility both by day 
and by night and made possible the abandonment of the elec- 
tric bells or horns whieh had proved disturbing to many citi- 
zens and a disadvantage to the police in many ways. New 
types of installation increased the applicability of the recall, 
permitting the summons of one particular patrolman, a group 
of patrolmen, or all officers on duty at the time. The recall 
system, moreover, instead of increasing the costs of the police 
department, actually decreased them. 

New York City did not adopt the light-recall system until 
1914. In 1911, the so-called fixed-post system was organized by 
the police commissioner in order to make a policeman quickly 
available to any citizen. Policemen were stationed in the mid- 
dle of various street intersections where they could be noticed 
by anyone who might need their assistance. Other officers 
walked the beats, each beat starting and ending at a corner 
where there was a stationary officer. The officers would then 
alternate, one walking the beat and the other staying at the 
fixed corner post. This system of patrolling proved so expen- 
sive that in 1914 there was installed in the Twenty-third pre- 
cinct an experimental flashlight recall system. The precinct 
was divided into recall zones, and the signal lamps were placed 

20 Police Communication Systems 

on the patrol-box posts. A special feature of the New York 
system was the provision of "citizens' call buttons" attached 
to the signal boxes. Anyone needing a policeman could press 
a call button, which would cause the lamp to burn steadily 
and so notify the patrolman that he was needed. The recall 
system proved so efficient that by 1915 it had been extended 
to six precincts and its installation was planned in sixteen 
more. By 1919, the recall signals were in use in Brooklyn as 
well as in Manhattan. The growth and distribution of police 
recall systems has not been in proportion to their value to the 
service, but the accumulated evidence from many American 
communities which have installed them points to their in- 
creased use in the future. 


The development of wireless communication toward the end 
of the nineteenth century, together with the growing use of 
vehicles, gave opportunity for a complete change in police 
practice and technique. Half a century ago, not only did the 
policeman have no means of traversing his beat except on 
foot, but he was not even provided with any facilities for 
transporting to the station house the persons he arrested. The 
officer sometimes had literally to drag his prisoner to the sta- 
tion, and frequently the station was a mile or more from the 
point of arrest. If a prisoner was unruly, and they often were, 
it was a contest of muscular strength and physical endurance 
between the policeman and the person in custody. 

Occasionally, if the prisoner was very stubborn or helplessly 
intoxicated, the policeman requisitioned a passing horse- 
drawn vehicle ; and when required by duty to care for the sick 
and injured or to remove a dead body, his only recourse was 
an appeal to the owner of some suitable conveyance. Often, 
especially in the night and in stormy weather, "sick horse" 
was given as an excuse for refusing the officer's request. Pris- 
oners were taken to the station house in wheelbarrows, push- 
carts, milk wagons, and other available conveyances. On one 
occasion a policeman stopped an empty hearse after a funeral 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 21 

and, entering that gruesome vehicle with the prisoner, lay 
down on him and thus held him until a police station was 

Then came the horse-drawn patrol wagon, variously 
known as the "Black Maria," "pie-wagon," and other as little- 
suited names, another innovation in police service. The first 
of these patrol wagons were not very commodious, and they 
were uncovered, policeman and prisoners being in full view 
as they passed through the streets. Naturally they attracted 
attention and were followed by the usual crowd of curiosity 
seekers, but they were a great improvement upon muscular 
power, wheelbarrows, and milk wagons. With the appear- 
ance of the automobile as a means of transportation, officials 
charged with the management and control of police depart- 
ments recognized its economic value in police work. At this 
writing, many departments are completely motorized and 
almost all of them possess one or more cars for emergency 

The automobile as a universal means of rapid transporta- 
tion, however, greatly complicated the problem of fighting the 
criminal. Modern improvements in automobile construction 
made it possible for an amazing number of persons to become 
qualified drivers. Present-day criminals, appreciating the 
enormous possibilities of motor transport for their purposes, 
have also found in the automobile, with its flexibility of serv- 
ice and speed, a much-desired means for rapid escape. To 
meet this situation the motor patrol was organized and has 
become one of the most important arms of law enforcement. 

Until the radio reached its present development, there was 
no efficient means of keeping in touch with these cruising 
units of the department. The mobile policeman, like the foot 
patrolman, made periodic calls through the police boxes and 
so received his instructions a procedure which of course re- 
duced the efficiency and value of the new patrol units. The 
police therefore turned eagerly to radio as the medium which 
would solve this communication problem. 

The possibilities of radio in police work were suggested, it 

22 Police Communication Systems 

is said, as early as 1902, when two robbers escaping from 
Catalina Island, off the coast of California, were arrested, on 
reaching the mainland, by officers who had been notified by 
wireless. A more dramatic use of wireless in a criminal case 
was made in 1910 when a Mrs. Crippen disappeared. Her 
husband, Dr. Crippen, living in London, sent notes to friends 
indicating that she had died in California. Subsequently, a 
woman who had been the doctor's mistress began to live with 
him openly and to wear the wife's jewelry. The wife's friends 
reported the matter to Scotland Yard. An investigation, in 
which the doctor assisted, revealed nothing. Later, after the 
two had disappeared, sufficient evidence was produced for 
charges of murder against them, but they could not be found. 
On the steamship "Montrose," sailing from Holland to Que- 
bec, the captain noticed the unusual caresses bestowed by a 
man passenger upon his supposed son, who proved to be a 
woman. The captain wirelessed the facts to Scotland Yard, 
two detectives took passage for Quebec, caught up with the 
"Montrose" off the Canadian shore, and returned to England 
with the prisoners. Dr. Crippen was hanged, the woman ac- 

These isolated examples, however, only faintly foreshad- 
owed the coming police usefulness of wireless communication. 
In 1908, upon the recommendation of the Police Commission 
of New York City, wireless telegraphy was provided between 
police headquarters and the police steamer "Patrol." The first 
regular police use of wireless was thus similar to its first com- 
mercial employment, as a means of communication with ves- 
sels. Further development in the police use of wireless did 
not come until after the World War. 

The first radio-station license issued for police service was 
granted on June 11, 1920, to the Department of Police, City of 
New York. The call signal was K-U-V-S. Almost simultane- 
ously in various sections of the country, individual members 
of police departments, on their own initiative and encouraged 
by their chiefs, began to experiment with this new and prom- 
ising instrumentality. Their apparatus was crude, but their 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 23 

hopes were high. In the same year, Lieutenant- Colonel J. 0. 
Mauburgne, now in charge of military communications on the 
Pacific Coast, assisted the Chicago police in the development 
of a transmitter and associated receiving apparatus. The late 
Inspector Mehrtens, of the police department of Berkeley, 
Calif., as early as 1921 foresaw the potentialities of police 
radio use and made extensive tests and observations with the 
cooperation of local broadcasting stations. With an automo- 
bile equipped with a receiving set, test cruises were made to 
various sections of the San Francisco Bay area. The experi- 
ments had varying success, the signal fading in and out at 
irregular intervals, but the persons present were convinced 
that final success only awaited the development of apparatus 
designed for the purpose. 

In the same year, 1921, Captain Roy Scofield, of the po- 
lice department of Toledo, Ohio, a captain in the Signal 
Corps and chief signal officer of the 37th Division during the 
World War, set up a transmitter at police headquarters and 
equipped his own automobile with a receiving set. Fading 
strength of the received signal and various forms of elec- 
trical interference handicapped operations so severely that 
the project was temporarily abandoned. 

In 1920, prior to the experiments of Mehrtens and Scofield, 
Chief James Higgins, of Buffalo, N. Y., had read before the 
International Association of Chiefs of Police a paper entitled, 
"Use of Wireless Telegraph in Police Service." The paper 
presented the thesis that wireless was the solution to the prob- 
lems of long-distance intercity police communication, and the 
author proposed a series of wireless stations for sending police 
information. Although the Chief made a good case for the need 
of a new method of sending long-distance police messages, he 
guessed incorrectly in respect to the medium to be employed 
for this purpose. Recent installations of long-distance tele- 
typewriter networks appear to indicate this apparatus as the 
police long-distance communication medium, at least for the 
time being. 

At the 1921 convention of the International Association, 

24 Police Communication Systems 

Chief Higgins returned to the subject of radio and wireless in 
police work, stressing the application of radio to intracity 
communication. Significant experiments carried on by the 
Rochester, N. Y., police department in wireless communica- 
tion between radio-equipped automobiles and police head- 
quarters received special attention. A committee appointed 
to investigate the possibilities of radio in police work reported 
in 1924 an apparent consensus among chiefs of police that 
radio communication might prove very valuable in the future, 
but was still too little developed to be of great present value. 
The incomplete report submitted by the committee showed 
that the police of eleven cities had wireless receiving sets, five 
departments had their own broadcasting stations, and ten 
police departments (exclusive of those listed in the table on 
pp. 25-31) were making use of cooperating private receiv- 
ing sets. In spite of the committee's pessimism, these data 
afforded a few crumbs of comfort to the radio enthusiasts 
among the police. 

Apathy, inertia, even opposition, perennial enemies to in- 
novation, had yet to be overcome by the advocates of police 
radio development. There were other quarters in which the 
approval of wireless was not quite unanimous. There were 
admirals and captains who were unalterably opposed to it; 
they believed that when a ship was out of sight of land she 
belonged in the hands of her master and that orders from the 
blue were an outrage and an affront to his dignity. A similar 
attitude prevailed, it is interesting to note, at the time of 
creation of the first police departments in this country, when 
great difficulty was experienced in both New York and Phila- 
delphia in making the men wear uniforms. This form of dress 
was considered to be degrading to American manhood and the 
attempt to compel its use was resented. Indeed, it is said that 
in Philadelphia the uniform was not accepted as a part of the 
officer's equipment until 1860. 

It is not surprising that openly expressed skepticism met 
the first proposals to experiment with radio apparatus as a 
device for police communication. To persons not versed in the 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 












City of Aberdeen 

Aberdeen, Wash 




"City of Abilene 

Abilene, Tex 




City of Ada 

Ada, Okla 




City of Akron 

Akron, O 




City of Albany 

Albany, N. Y 




City of Albuquerque. . . . 

Albuquerque, N. M. . . . 




City of Altus 

Altus, Okla 




*City of Ardmore 

Ardmore, Okla 




Town of Arlington 

Arlington, Mass 




*City of Ashland 

Ashland, Ky 





Brea, Calif 




Buncombe County 





City of Atchison 

Atchison, Kan 




City of Atlanta 

Atlanta, Ga 




City of Auburn 

Auburn, N. Y 




City Council of Augusta . . 

Augusta, Ga 




City of Austin 

Austin, Tex 




City of Bakersfield 

Bakersfield, Calif 




Baltimore Police Dept. . . . 

Baltimore, Md 




*City of Baton Rouge 

Baton Rouge, La 




City of Bay City 

Bay City, Mich 




City of Beaumont 

Beaumont, Tex 




City of Bellingham 

Bellingham, Mass 




Belmont County 

St. Clairsville, O 




Bergen County 

Hackensack, N. J 




City of Berkeley 

Berkeley, Calif 




City of Big Spring 

Big Spring, Tex 




City of Binghamton 

Binghamton, N. Y 




City of Birmingham 

Birmingham, Ala 




Town of Bloomfield 

Bloomfield, N.J 




*City of Bluefield 

Bluefield, W. Va 




City of Bluff ton 

Bluffton, Ind. 




City of Bridgeport 

Bridgeport, Conn 




City of Bristol 

Bristol, Va 




*City of Brockton 

Brockton, Mass 




City of Brownsville 

Brownsville, Tex 




City of Brownwood 

Brownwood, Tex 




City of Buffalo 

Buffalo, N. Y. 




Carter County 





City of Cedar Rapids 

Cedar Rapids, la 




City of Centralia 

Centralia, Wash 




Citv of Chanute 

Chanute, Kan 




City Council of Charles- 


Charleston, S. C 




City of Charleston 

Charleston, W. Va 




City of Charlotte 

Charlotte, N. C. 




Chelan County 

Wenatchee, Wash 




City of Chicago 

Chicago, 111.. 



Denotes construction permit only. 


Police Communication Systems 










Chicago 111 





City of Chicago 
City of Chickasha and 
Grady County 
City of Cincinnati 
City of Clarksburg 
City of Cleburne 
City of Cleveland 
County of Cleveland 
City of Clovis 
City of Coffeyville 

Chicago, 111 

Chickasha, Okla 
Cincinnati, O 
Clarksburg, W. Va 
Cleburne, Tex 
Cleveland, O 
Norman, Okla 
Clovis, N.M 
Coffeyville, Kan 







City of Columbus 
City of Compton 
City of Connersville 
City of Corpus Christi 
City of Cranston 
City of Gushing 
City of Dallas 
City of Dallas 
City of Davenport 
City of Dayton 

City of Denton 
City and County of 

Columbus, Ga 
Compton, Calif 
Connersville, Ind 
Corpus Christi, Tex 
Cranston, R. I 
Gushing, Okla 
Dallas, Tex 
Dallas, Tex 
Davenport, la 
Dayton, O 

Denton, Tex 
Denver Colo 






City of Des Moines 
Detroit Police Dept 
Detroit Police Dept 

Des Moines, la 
Detroit, Mich 
Detroit, Mich 




City of Dodge City 

Dodge City, Kan 




City of Duluth 

Duluth, Minn 




City of Duncan 
East Providence Police 

Duncan, Okla 
East Providence, R. I. . 




City of El Centro 
City of Eldorado 
City of El Paso 

El Centro, Calif 
Eldorado, Kan 
El Paso, Tex 




*Elwood Police Dept 

Elwood Ind 




*City of Enid 

Enid, Okla 




Eugene Ore. 




City of Everett 
City of Everett 

Everett, Mass 
Everett, Wash 
Fairmont, W. Va 




City of Fall River. 

Fall River, Mass 
Fargo N D 




City of Fitchburg 
City of Flint 

Fitchburg, Mass 
Flint, Mich 



* Denotes construction permit only. 

t Denotes construction permit for increase in power. 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 










City of Fort Lauderdale . . 
City of Fort Smith 
City of Fort Wayne 
Citv of Frankfort 

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. . 
Fort Smith, Ark 
Fort Wayne, Ind 
Frankfort, Ind 






Franklin County Board of 
County Commissioners 
City of Fresno 
City of Gainesville 
City of Gainesville 
City of Galveston 
City of Garden City 
City of Grand Rapids 
City of Green Bay 
*City of Greenville 
Gregg County Sheriff's 
Township of GrossePointe 
""County of Hawaii 

Columbus, O 
Fresno, Calif 
Gainesville, Fla 
Gainesville, Tex 
Galveston, Tex 
Garden City, Kan 
Grand Rapids, Mich. . . 
Green Bay, Wis 
Greenville, Miss 

Long view, Tex 
Lochmoor, Mich 
Hilo, T. H. 






Village of Herkimer 
City of Highland Park .... 
City and County of 

Herkimer, N.Y 
Highland Park, Mich. . 

Honolulu, T.H 






Hoquiam Wash. 




City of Houston 

Houston, Tex. 




City of Huntington 
Town of Huntington 
City of Huron 
City of Hutchinson 
City of Idaho Falls 
City of Indianapolis 
City of Jackson 

Huntington, Ind 
Huntington, N.Y 
Huron, S. D 
Hutchinson, Kan 
Idaho Falls, Ida 
Indianapolis, Ind 
lola, Kan 
Jackson, Mich. 




City of Jackson 
City of Jacksonville 

Jackson, Miss 
Jacksonville, Fla 




City of Johnson City 
City of Kalamazoo 
City of Kansas City 
County and City of 

Johnson City, Tenn 
Kalamazoo, Mich 
Kansas City, Mo 

Kenosha, Wis 






Kern County 

Bakersfield, Calif. 




Kitsap County Sheriff's 

Port Orchard, Wash. . . . 




City of Klamath Falls 
City of Knoxville 
City of Kokomo 

Klamath Falls, Ore 
Knox County, Tenn. . . 
Kokomo, Ind. . 




City of Lafayette 
Lake County 

Lafayette, Ind 
Waukegan, 111 




City of Lakeland 

Lakeland, Fla 



Denotes construction permit only. 


Police Communication Systems 










City of Lancaster 
City of Lansing 
County of Lasalle 
City of Las Vegas 

Lancaster, O 
Lansing, Mich 
Ottawa, 111 
Las Vegas, Nev 
Lawton Okla 




City of Leavenworth 
City of Lexington 
City of Lincoln 
City of Little Rock 
City of Lodi 
City of Lorain 
City of Los Angeles 
City of Los Angeles 

Leavenworth, Kan 
Lexington, Ky 
Lincoln, Neb 
Little Rock, Ark 
Lodi, Calif 
Lorain, O 
Los Angeles, Calif 




City of Louisville 

Louisville, Ky 




City of Lubbock 

Lubbock, Tex. 





City of Lynchburg 
City of Macon 

*Macon County, Sheriff's 

Lynchburg, Va 
Macon, Ga 

Decatur, 111. 






*City of Madison 

Madison, Wis. 




*City of Mangum 

Mangum, Okla. 




City of Mansfield 

Mansfield, O. 




City of Marshall 
*City of Marysville 
*City of McPherson 
City of Medford 

Marshall, Tex 
Marysville, Calif 
McPherson, Kan 
Medford, Mass 
Memphis Tenn. 





City of Miami 

Miami, Fla. 




City of Miami 
City of Milwaukee 
City of Minneapolis 
City of Minneapolis 
City of Mobile 

Milwaukee, Wis 
Minneapolis, Minn 
Minneapolis, Minn 
Mobile, Ala 




City of Monessen 

Monessen, Pa 




Board of Chosen Freehol- 
ders, County of Mon- 
mouth, N. J 

Freehold, N. J 




Muskegon, Mich. 




City of Muskogee 

Muskogee, Okla 




City of Nashua 

Nashua, N. H 




County of Nassau 
County of Nassau, N. Y. . 





City of Natchez 

Natchez Miss 




*Town of Needham 

Needham, Mass. 



* Denotes construction permit only. 

f Denotes construction permit for increase in power. 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 










City of New Bedford 
City of New Castle 

Fairhaven, Mass 
NewCastle Pa. 




City of New Haven 
City of New London 
City of New Orleans 
City of Newton 
City of New York 

New Haven, Conn 
New London, Conn 
New Orleans, La 
Newton, Mass 
Brooklyn, N.Y 




City of New York 

New York, N. Y 




City of New York 

New York, N.Y. 




City of Niagara Falls 
City of Norfolk 
Village of Oak Park 

Niagara Falls, N. Y. . . . 
Norfolk, Neb 
Oak Park, 111 




City of Oceanside 

Oceanside Calif 


37 5 


City of Oil City 

Oil City, Pa 





County of Oklahoma 
County of Oklahoma, 
County of Oklahoma, 

Oklahoma City, Okla. . 




City of Okmulgee 

Okmulgee, Okla 




City of Olympia 

Olympia, Wash 




City of Omaha 

Omaha, Neb. 




City of Oneonta 

Oneonta, N. Y. . 





County of Orange 
City of Orlando 

Town of Palm Beach 

Santa Ana, Calif 
Orlando, Fla 

Palm Beach, Fla. 





City of Palo Alto 

Palo Alto, Calif. 





City of Parkersburg 
City of Pasadena 
City of Pawtucket 
*City of Peru 

Parkersburg, W. Va. . . . 
Pasadena, Calif 
Pawtucket, R. I 
Peru, Ind. 




City of Petersburg 

Petersburg, Va. 




City of Philadelphia 
City of Phoenix 

Philadelphia, Pa 
Phoenix, Ariz. 




Pinellas County 

Clearwater, Fla. . . 




City of Pittsburgh 
City of Pomona 
City of Ponca City 
City of Port Huron 
City of Portland 

Pittsburgh, Pa 
Pomona, Calif 
Ponca City, Okla 
Port Huron, Mich 
Portland, Me. 




City of Portland 
City of Portsmouth 
City of Prescott 

Portland, Ore 
Portsmouth, O 
Prescott, Ariz 
Providence, R. I. 




City of Rapid City 
City of Reading 

Rapid City, S. D 
Reading, Pa. . 



* Denotes construction permit only. 

t Denotes construction permit for increase in power. 


Police Communication Systems 










City of Reno 

Reno Nev. 




City of Richmond 

Richmond, Ind 




City of Richmond 

Richmond, Va 




City of Roanoke 

Roanoke, Va 




City of Rochester 

Rochester, N. Y 




City of Rockford 

Rockford, 111 




City of Sacramento 

Sacramento, Calif 




City of Saginaw 

Saginaw, Mich 





City of St. Louis 

St. Louis, Mo 




City of St. Paul 

St. Paul, Minn 




City of Salem 

Salem, Ore 




City of Salina 

Salina, Kan 




Salt Lake City, a Munici- 

pal Corporation 

Salt Lake City, Utah . . 




San Bernardino County 


San Bernardino, Calif. 




City of San Buenaventura 

San Buenaventura, 





Citv of San Diego 

San Diego Calif. 




City of Sandusky 

Sandusky, O 




City and County of San 


San Francisco, Calif. . . 




County of San Joaquin . . . 

Stockton, Calif 




City of San Jose 

San Jose, Calif 




City of Santa Barbara .... 

Santa Barbara, Calif. . . 




City of Santa Cruz 

Santa Cruz, Calif 




City of Santa Fe 

Santa Fe.N.M 




Seattle Police Dept 

Seattle, Wash 




City of Seminole 

Seminole, Okla 




City of Sharon 

Sharon, Pa 




*City of Shawnee 

Shawnee, Okla 




* Shelby Police Dept 

Shelby, O 




City of ShrGVGport 

Shreveport La. 




City of Sioux City 

Sioux City, la 




Skagit County 

Mt. Vernon, Wash 




City of Somerville 

Somerville, Mass 




City of South Bend 

South Bend, Ind 




City of Spokane 

Spokane, Wash 




City of Steubenville 

Steubenville, O 




Borough of Swarthmore . . 

Swarthmore, Pa 




*City of Sweetwater 

Sweetwater, Tex 




City of Syracuse 

Syracuse, N. Y 




City of Tacoma 

Tacoma, Wash 




City of Tampa 

Tampa, Fla 




City of Toledo 

Toledo O 





Topeka, Kan 



* Denotes construction permit only. 

t Denotes construction permit for increase in power. 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 











City of Tracy 
City of Tulare 

Tracy, Calif 
Tulare Calif 




City of Tulsa 

Tulsa, Okla 




City of Tulsa, Okla 
City of Urbana 
City of Utica 
City of Waco 

Urbana, 111 
Utica, N. Y 
Vallejo, Calif 
Waco Tex 





City of Walla Walla 
Town of Warren 
District of Columbia 
Metropolitan Police 
*City of Waterbury 
*County of Waukesha 
City of Whittier 

Walla Walla, Wash 
Warren, R.I 

Washington, D. C 
Waterbury, Conn 
Waukesha, Wis 
Whittier, Calif. 






City of Wichita 

Wichita, Kan. 





City of Wichita Falls 
City of Wilkes-Barre 
Winnebago County 

City of Woonsocket 

Wichita Falls, Tex 
Wilkes-Barre, Pa 

Woonsocket, R. I. 





City of Worcester 
City of Yakima 
City of Yonkers 
City of York 
City of Youngstown 
Yuma County 
City of Zanesville 

Worcester, Mass 
Yakima, Wash 
Yonkers, N.Y 
York, Pa 
Youngstown, O 
Yuma, Ariz 
Zanesville O. 



* Denotes construction permit only. 

t Denotes construction permit for increase in power. 

technique of radio, it seemed a complicated and even impossi- 
ble undertaking, but to those who understood this modern 
instrument of communication it was a smooth-running ma- 
chine of great potential usefulness in the suppression of crime 
and the upholding of law and order. Its adoption by the po- 
lice was slow, for wireless apparatus easily appeared too com- 
plicated for the layman to understand. The police in many 
cities concealed their ignorance of the subject by sweeping 
announcements that the expense involved would not be justi- 
fied by the results. As late as March, 1927, the following edi- 
torial appeared in a prominent American police publication. 

32 Police Communication Systems 


One of the bright prospects which appears to have become a disap- 
pointment is that of the use of radio as an auxiliary to police work. Yet 
it is not certain that the failure is a permanent one and the lack of 
results up to this time may prompt some genius to bring out an idea 

which will turn a failure into success Despite some very valuable 

instances of crime apprehension through radio alarms, the fact remains 
that the more profitable use of the radio is still a standing police 

Oral expressions of skepticism were more to the point. The 
police commissioner in one of the largest cities in the United 
States, as late as 1931, vehemently opposed the adoption of a 
police radio system by that department. The city council was 
ready and anxious to appropriate funds for the installation, 
the public and the press openly condemned his stubborn op- 
position ; yet he persistently decried the use of what he termed 
"new-fangled contrivances." His attitude was disregarded, 
however, and the city concerned now possesses one of the most 
up-to-date radio patrol systems in the United States. 

In their earliest efforts in the radio field, police departments 
made use of commercial broadcasting stations, as in the ex- 
periments conducted by the New York Police Department in 
1924. Even earlier, before the days of popular broadcasting, 
under the first police radio license granted in this country 
the New York Police Department maintained and operated a 
telegraph transmitting station, transmitting in telegraphic 
code information on stolen cars or missing persons. These 
messages were picked up by amateurs, wireless operators on 
incoming vessels, and other persons who understood the code. 

In general, however, in the first attempts to use radio 
broadcasting in police work, information was sent out over 
a commercial station or over some station operating in the 
entertainment frequency bands. The attendant disadvantages 
were obvious. Information about the activities of the police 
was received not only by police stations equipped with re- 
ceivers, but also by radio listeners everywhere within range 
of the station. 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 33 

There were more far-reaching disadvantages. The person- 
nel of commercial broadcasting stations were unfamiliar with 
police practice and technique and were therefore incapable 
in handling police traffic effectively. Broadcasting organiza- 
tions, moreover, exist primarily for entertainment purposes 
and it was not feasible to "break in" at any point on a pro- 
gram for a police broadcast. The time-interval delay in finally 
putting the police call on the air was often so long as to defeat 
its purpose. Furthermore, a certain amount of secrecy is in- 
dispensable to the success of police operations. The use of a 
broadcasting station often involved the release to the public 
of information essentially confidential. It should be said, how- 
ever, that the owners of many commercial broadcasting sta- 
tions displayed a gratifying spirit of cooperation in putting 
their facilities at the disposal of the police when need arose. 
For the reasons mentioned, the police have found it necessary 
to develop and install their own transmitting equipment, but 
commercial broadcasting stations still hold great promise for 
police use in the locating of missing persons and under dis- 
aster conditions when the usual means of communication are 
paralyzed. These matters are considered in some detail in an- 
other chapter. 

In the beginning, Canadian authorities also seized upon the 
apparent opportunity presented by the already established 
broadcasting stations. As in the United States, this was a 
logical preliminary step in police broadcasting because, with 
a modern station already in existence, the only police expense 
involved was the cost of receiving equipment for the selected 
police stations. In Edmonton, Alberta, through the courtesy 
of C-J-C-A, a broadcasting station operated by the Edmonton 
Journal, information was broadcast twice daily relative to 
stolen automobiles, and lost children and other missing per- 
sons. Scotland Yard made a similar arrangement with the 
British Broadcasting Corporation. 

The years 1926 to 1928 represent a significant period in 
the history of police radio communication. Almost simultane- 
ously in this interval, the police in various parts of the United 

34 Police Communication Systems 

States began to experiment with whatever apparatus was 
available. Transmitters constructed of spare parts and assem- 
bled with the assistance of local radio amateurs were installed 
on police stations and, with receivers of like pedigree mounted 
in police cars, the first police radio systems began to assume 
their present form. Although these tests were uniformly suc- 
cessful, they were everywhere attended with numerous diffi- 
culties, the same in every place where such experiments were 

The operation of a radio receiver in a moving automobile 
presented an entirely original problem. Little or 110 technical 
material had been written or published on this phase of radio 
reception, and progress was in large part a process of trial 
and error. Eoad shock, constant change of position, interfer- 
ence originating in the electrical circuits of the car and from 
outside sources, fading of signal, and other problems arose at 
once for solution. During this period the police were greatly 
indebted to the zealous band of operators in the field of ama- 
teur radio. It was the amateur who discovered the true value 
of short waves and found that he could chat round the world 
by means of very simple apparatus which consumed less cur- 
rent than an electric flat iron or toaster. In a dozen or more 
cities and communities, these youngsters, with no small 
amount of engineering knowledge gained from study and ac- 
tual construction of radio transmitters and receivers, stepped 
in and without compensation gave of their time and energy 
to the development of police radio equipment. Their inval- 
uable assistance to officers in the various departments who 
pioneered in the radio project holds an important position in 
the history of police radio communication. 

Police departments in a number of cities, notably Detroit, 
Mich., and Berkeley, Calif., were moving ahead steadily 
with experimental installations and continuous tests. Detroit 
began using radio in police work in 1921, just after the begin- 
ning of commercial broadcasting. The results were not satis- 
factory and in the spring of 1927 the station was closed. In 
the fall of that year, Commissioner Rutledge placed a former 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 35 

traffic patrolman, Kenneth B. Cox, in charge of radio devel- 
opment in Detroit. Assigned with him were Walter Vogler 
and Bernard Fitzgerald, both experienced radio men. Cox, 
a former engineering student of Purdue University, reopened 
the station in April, 1928, and the results obtained from that 
day to the present have played an influential part in the per- 
manent establishment of radio as a police instrument. The 
system developed in Detroit of broadcasting, over a short- 
range station, information to cruising police cars equipped 
with radio receivers attuned to that station alone, is, in essence 
the system universally adopted. 

The present author, with the assistance of a young engi- 
neering student, Reginald Tibbetts, in 1926 established what 
was probably the first radio contact on the Pacific Coast be- 
tween police headquarters and a moving patrol car. In that 
year, following a study of the apparatus then available, a 
50- watt Hartley-type transmitter was built and installed at 
police headquarters at Berkeley, Calif., by members of the 
department, and experiments were conducted with a police 
car equipped for radio reception. These experiments termi- 
nated in 1928 with the installation of a 75-watt transmitter 
employing the Hartley circuit and the construction of a 
7-tube automobile receiver especially designed for this type 
of service. The increased power of the transmitter proved a 
valuable aid. The new receiver, consisting of three stages of 
screen-grid radio frequency, a detector, and three stages of 
audio amplification, although somewhat elaborate, performed 
admirably under actual operating conditions in a police car. 
With this equipment it became possible to demonstrate offi- 
cially that the system was entirely feasible and that the time 
was opportune for the installation of standard radio equip- 
ment at police headquarters. 

From its inception the project enjoyed the interest and 
support of municipal officials, and in the year following these 
experiments funds were appropriated and professional radio 
engineers were consulted for the design and construction of 
a modern radio-communication system. This installation was 

36 Police Communication Systems 

unique in that it was designed for code transmission exclu- 
sively and used primarily as a fast signaling system. Coded 
calls were assigned to radio patrol officers, and code combina- 
tions covering street intersections, crime classifications, and 
personal descriptions were prepared, to increase further the 
usefulness of the apparatus. The average time required to 
make contact with patrol cars was 45 seconds, day or night, 
and under any and all weather conditions. The transmitting 
equipment was automatic in operation. 

Meanwhile, Canadian police officials were alert to the possi- 
bilities of rapid communication : the recognition and growth 
of radio as a facility for police communication was not con- 
fined to this country. The men engaged in the battle against 
crime in Canada had no illusions about the seriousness of the 
situation. In an address given before the Chief Constables' 
Association of Canada, in 1926, Inspector T. W. A. Parsons, 
of the British Columbia Provincial Police, declared that the 
most effective means of defeating speedy transportation as a 
weapon of the criminal was by accelerated intercommunica- 
tion as a weapon of the police. With this end in view, the 
British Columbia police decided to experiment with radio- 
telephony and radio-telegraphy. Subsequently, a police radio 
network was constructed with 50- watt transmitters installed 
in the divisional offices at Vancouver, Prince Rupert, Kam- 
loops, Nelson, and Victoria. Each station could communicate 
with all the others, either individually or collectively, and 
an immediate reply could be received to any message trans- 
mitted. This installation was designed for code communica- 
tion and provided a system which effectively blanketed the 
entire province. 10 

Further, the board of police commissioners of the city of 
Winnipeg, Manitoba, on May 23, 1930, awarded a contract to 
the Canadian Marconi Company for the construction of a 
modern police radio station. The Winnipeg system, the first 

10 According to recent information, the Alberta Provincial Police were 
amalgamated with the Boyal Canadian Mounted Police on April 1, 1932, 
and shortly thereafter the use of the radio system was discontinued. 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 37 

radio-telephone transmitter in Canada to be used exclusively 
in the suppression and prevention of crime, is a model station 
and equal to any in the United States. 

The value of speed of communication in the apprehension 
of criminals was becoming increasingly recognized by police 
authorities throughout the world and the police radio stations 
for police operations exclusively grew in number by leaps 
and bounds. 11 Toward the end of 1929, radio construction per- 
mits, covering the installation of radio equipment necessary 
for communication between police headquarters and motor 
patrols or squad cars, had been granted to twenty police de- 
partments in the United States by the Federal Communica- 
tions Commissions at Washington, D. C. 

The development of police radio systems directly parallels 
that of automobile reception. Satisfactory transmitters were 
available long before automobile receivers became practical. 
It was not until 1930 that commercial manufacturers of 
standard receiving equipment entered the field of automo- 
bile radio. The first sets to appear on the market, although 
a decided improvement on all previous attempts, were not 
entirely satisfactory. It was clear, however, that there was a 
definite, popular market for this type of equipment, and en- 
gineers concentrated upon the development of improved re- 
ceivers, principally through reorganization of circuit design. 
The introduction of the "B eliminator" and other current- 
supply devices, as well as exceptional improvement in tube 
design and construction, soon resulted in an automobile re- 
ceiving set which rivaled the performance of the standard 
home receiver. With efficient receiving apparatus available, 
police radio communication took another big stride forward 
and by 1933 the number of systems in operation had expanded 
from tweny-six to almost one hundred. Licensed state police 
stations were in operation in the states of Iowa, Louisiana, 
Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas, and Mas- 
sachusetts had on file applications for four additional state 
police radio stations, including one portable station. In many 

11 See Chapter XIII, "Foreign Police Communication Systems" (p. 

38 Police Communication Systems 

communities, moreover, the police radio served the fire de- 
partment also, and in four cities Boston, Detroit, San Fran- 
cisco, and Seattle the fire departments had their own radio 

This unexpected expansion of the new means of patrol 
communication was accompanied by even more astounding 
performance. So spectacular have been the achievements of 
radio in the police field that one is tempted to abandon plain 
statement of fact and describe them in the language of the 
sensational press. Only a few typical examples, taken from 
actual police records, are given here. 

Two officers waiting in a radio patrol car for the "Go" sig- 
nal received a broadcast from Chicago police headquarters 
describing two men in an automobile who were wanted for 
bank robbery and murder, committed a few minutes before. 
While the officers were listening, a car with two men in it 
stopped alongside to await the traffic signal and the officers 
had only to step from one car to another to make an important 
arrest. Contrast this with the period when policemen were 
walking beats and reporting in at one-hour intervals. Fre- 
quently, those farthest from a disturbance received the infor- 
mation first and hurried to the scene, their necessary use of 
their sirens giving ample warning to the fugitive that the 
police were on the way. Now, the radio-patrol officers nearest 
the scene are informed, and frequently they are within a 
block or two of the disturbance. 

The clerk of a hotel in Hollywood was held up, robbed, kid- 
naped, and thrown from the bandits' car some distance from 
the hotel. From his telephoned description, the police com- 
plaint board identified the car's license number as that of a 
car stolen just prior to the robbery. This information was 
given to all police radio patrol cars, and the two bandits were 
captured some ten miles from the hotel, eighteen minutes 
after the broadcast. 

The Radio Police Division of Los Angeles arrested in May, 
1933, the first month of its radio operation, 66 more suspects 
than the entire force had seized in the preceding month. In 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 39 

April, uniformed men had made 559 arrests, of which 41 were 
for felonies ; in May, the officers manning the 43 police-radio 
cars made 625 arrests, of which 178 were for major crimes. 
In April, 177 robberies were reported ; in May, with radio- 
equipped cars cruising the streets day and night, the number 
of robberies reported dropped to 133. 

On May 29, 1933, the manager of a branch bank in Los 
Angeles was held up by three men. The manager, in his report 
to the police department, gave the two license numbers on the 
car, one on the front and one on the rear. The car was traced 
through the registration of licenses at the Motor Vehicle De- 
partment and found in the garage at one of the registered 
addresses. Two officers guarded the premises while the third 
phoned to headquarters and received instructions to await 
reinforcements. Three radio patrol cars made the run in less 
than three minutes and the three robbers were captured. The 
robbers had intended to resist the two officers, but upon the 
prompt arrival of the other six they decided that their situa- 
tion was hopeless. The case was entirely cleared up within 
thirty-five minutes after the robbery ; yet when the officers 
arrived the money had been divided and the men were just 
about to separate. 

Numerous instances might be cited of arrests made by po- 
lice radio patrols within from ten to sixty seconds for such 
offenses as breaking and entering, robbery, and extortion. 
Only one further example, however, of the great value of the 
radio patrol will be given, taken from the records of the De- 
troit Police Department ; a case which, without the assistance 
of radio-equipped automobiles, would have been added to the 
long list of police mysteries, possibly to remain there. 

Three men directed a taxicab driver to take them from 
Detroit to the suburb of Ferndale. In a sparsely settled sec- 
tion, the driver was bound and tied to a tree, and the three 
drove away in the cab. It was more than thirty minutes before 
the driver was able to report to the Detroit police, but thirty 
seconds afterward the alarm was broadcast to cruising cars. 
The cab was sighted, a gun fight followed, and in only a few 

40 Police Communication Systems 

minutes after the broadcast two of the men were in custody, 
one of them with $5000 in his pocket. The third escaped. The 
case, however, was only begun, as eventually these arrests led 
to the discovery that the $5000 was ransom money paid in a 
kidnaping as yet unknown to the police. The arrests made 
were most important, for the men confessed to a long series of 
major crimes. Both had served terms in the Michigan state 
prison, and they were wanted in two other states for parole 

The foregoing illustrations of the effectiveness of the police 
radio patrol might be multiplied almost indefinitely. They 
have a significance that the casual reader may not appreciate, 
for they hold the promise that society has in its hands a power- 
ful agency of social control. And the adaptation of radio to 
police operations has barely begun : constant experimentation 
is going on in police departments the world over. In London, 
Scotland Yard not only employs the radio-equipped cruiser, 
but also makes use of vans equipped with both receiving and 
transmitting apparatus, thus establishing two-way communi- 
cation between the mobile patrol and police headquarters. 
The possibilities of this new development stagger the imagi- 
nation. It is receiving the serious attention of many police 
departments in the United States, and several cities have 
already added this two-way communication to their police 
equipment. In a number of police departments, also, radio 
receiving apparatus has been successfully installed on solo 
motorcycles, as well as on those provided with side-car equip- 
ment, making these mobile units a more effective force in 
traffic and patrol operations. 

State governments are recognizing the growing usefulness 
of radio communication in police work. In 1929, Michigan 
provided by law for a state owned and operated police radio 
station. All state police cars were equipped with radio equip- 
ment, and receiving sets were installed in sheriffs' and police 
chiefs' offices throughout the state. As already indicated, a 
number of state police radio stations are now licensed and in 
active operation. 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 41 

The need for police coordination, the problems of radio in- 
terference, and the dictates of economy have brought about 
the creation of regional police radio systems in several of the 
metropolitan areas of the United States. The Chicago police 
department was the first to offer radio service to other com- 
munities in the metropolitan area, and at the present time the 
three Chicago police transmitters serve fifty-six other police 
jurisdictions, covering three counties with a combined area 
of 1328 square miles and a population of more than 4,000,000. 
At this writing there are thirty-five regional radio systems 
serving areas ranging from 15 square miles in Kansas City 
to 1446 square miles in the East Bay area surrounding Berke- 
ley, Calif., and used by about 300 police organizations. 

The police use of radio has received recognition from both 
national and international authorities charged with the regu- 
lation of radio. The International Radio Conferences have 
set aside certain wave lengths for the exclusive use of police 
forces in international communication. In the United States, 
the Federal Communications Commission, with commendable 
foresight, issued an order in April, 1930, setting aside five 
additional wave lengths for police purposes exclusively and 
regulated the power of the individual stations on the basis of 
population in the area served. Influenced, no doubt, by the 
International Association of Chiefs of Police, this Commis- 
sion has taken steps to have the problem of police frequency 
and power assignments expertly studied and it is to be ex- 
pected that the future will provide ample freedom for the 
full development of this important arm of law enforcement. 


The following brief account is a history of the need for alarm- 
system protection rather than a history of the alarm sys- 
tems themselves. Chroniclers of past times have had little or 
nothing to say on the subject and it must be assumed that 
burglary and robbery protection has been, in former times as 
it is today, one of the most neglected fields of police communi- 
cation and practice. 

42 Police Communication Systems 

In the early years of the nineteenth century, the only 
known device for fastening a door was some form of the key- 
operated lock. The possible variations of locks were few and 
the mechanism quite simple. Adroit burglars of the period 
were intimately familiar with all of them and needed but a 
glance at the door to select the required key. 

History does not inform us how strong-box burglars oper- 
ated before the days of Jack Shepard, who was executed in 
London in 1724. The crude burglar tools of his time, however, 
remained in use generally until gunpowder came into play 
for "blowing" safes. About 1868, a maker of machine tools 
suggested to the inquiring mind of a burglar, George White, 
alias George Miles, the wedge to force open the doors of the 
new burglar-proof safes which had then appeared. At that 
time, the jambs of safe doors were not provided with steps and 
the wedges could be driven in. Where location would permit 
the noise of an explosion, one pound of gunpowder, intro- 
duced through a quarter-inch crevice made by one of the 
wedges, would blow the door out bodily. This little adjunct to 
the burglar's tools effectively sealed the fate of the then so- 
called burglar-proof safe and stirred up some feeling of con- 
sternation among saf emakers and bankers alike. 

A similar fate met the introduction of other makes of safes, 
most of which were protected by various types of patented 
combination locks. The means employed by the burglar to 
obtain the contents of the safe were various and successful, 
according to his ingenuity and initiative. A new method 
would be guarded by one band of thieves as long as possible, 
and so it was that cracksmen became known to the police by 
their work and methods of operation. 

By 1865 or 1868, the use of gunpowder became so general 
that nearly all the safes in coal and wood yards, as well as 
other business premises in isolated sections of New York City, 
were blown open. What may be called a fierce competition 
between the saf emaker and the burglar seems to have started 
about this time, the former attempting to make a safe to with- 
stand the burglar's tools and gunpowder, and the latter to 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 43 

overcome the new and stronger constructions. This happy 
state of affairs continued until shortly after the Civil War, 
when the combination lock became a more practical affair. 

The relief afforded by this new introduction was tempo- 
rary, however, for organized burglary gangs began immedi- 
ately to collect for examination and experiment a number of 
these locks, sometimes at considerable cost. Some they found 
were very easy to master, others required more time, but all 
were vulnerable. Some burglars soon became noted among 
criminals and police alike for their extreme cleverness in dis- 
covering the combination on this type of lock. The combina- 
tion lock, however, was made proof against such attacks by 
the introduction of the time lock in 1874 ; this mechanism pre- 
vented the operation of the bolts, even with the use of the 
combination, until a predetermined time had elapsed after 
setting of the lock. 

The truce was again short-lived, for dynamite came into use 
for safe burglary in 1878. The potential force of this explosive 
is about eight times that of gunpowder, but its action is more 
local, and where closely confined the noise of its explosion is 
small when compared to its shattering effect. About this time, 
however, drill-proof steel came on the scene and in a measure 
circumvented the use of dynamite because of the difficulty of 
penetrating this metal with a drill. Cracksmen were more 
than equal to the occasion, and about 1894 introduced the use 
of nitroglycerine into safe burglary. This has proved to be 
one of the most successful methods of any yet known, and is 
still used almost exclusively where an explosive is to be the 
means of attack. With this liquid explosive at the burglar's 
command, the drill was unnecessary and the drill-proof safe 
soon became an easy prey for the professional cracksman. 

Since the introduction of nitroglycerine, other industrial 
methods and tools have been prostituted to criminal use, in- 
cluding the oxyacetylene cutting torch, the oxygen blowpipe, 
and others, to meet advances in safe and vault construction. 
Given time, and by that is meant only a few hours, the most 
modern enclosure is unable to resist attack. 

44 Police Communication Systems 

Burglar-alarm systems had their inception in 1853, when 
A. R. Pope patented an ingenious device to give signals when 
doors were opened by interlopers. In 1858, Edward Holmes, 
proprietor of a notion store in Boston, spent his spare mo- 
ments studying the mysteries of electricity. Electrical phe- 
nomena were then more or less unexplained ; the telegraph 
was in use, but the incandescent lamp was still unknown, and 
electricity had not yet become one of the commonplaces of life. 
Holmes bought Pope's patent and began to exploit it in Bos- 
ton. Soon, however, he went to New York City to try and sell 
his "new-fangled" device in the larger metropolis. He met 
with fair success, installing the equipment in the homes of a 
few wealthy people. It is interesting to note that Alexander 
Graham Bell sought to attach his telephone circuits to the 
wires of the Holmes burglar-alarm system in Boston, since 
that wire system was one of the most widespread intracity 
electrical communicating systems then in existence. 

Holmes's first equipment was designed merely to warn the 
occupants of a house or store when someone tried to open a 
door or window. But it also warned the intruder, who could 
usually make a successful escape after the "warning gong be- 
gan to sound. Holmes reasoned that this defect could be elimi- 
nated if the wires protecting the doors were connected with 
police headquarters or with a central station near by; for, 
then, when signals were received, trained men could respond 
and capture the burglar unawares. Thus was born the central- 
station idea of alarm-system protection. 

Many developments and improvements have since been 
made in electrical equipment and circuit design, and in the 
past thirty years various types of alarm-system equipment 
have been made available to persons provident enough to 
secure its advantages. In November, 1901, the Underwriters' 
Laboratories, Inc., was chartered by the state of Illinois and 
authorized to establish and maintain laboratories for the ex- 
amination and testing of devices, systems, and materials em- 
ployed in alarm systems, thus giving official recognition to the 
worth and utility of this type of communication equipment. 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 45 

The Underwriters' Laboratories, Inc., has since expanded into 
a national organization and is now the recognized authority 
on alarm systems. Wherever employed, alarm equipment has 
invariably reduced losses, a fact that is well evidenced in the 
lower insurance rates for protected premises. 


The latest adaptation of an old device to the demands of fast 
police communication is the teletypewriter. This machine, 
which is being increasingly used in police as well as in other 
fields, is no more than a modern improvement of the old print- 
ing telegraphs invented by Hughes, Siemens, Creed, and 
others in the middle of the nineteenth century. After much 
experimental work and improvement of the apparatus, the 
telephone companies began supplying teletypewriter leased 
circuit service to the press associations in 1915. Other com- 
mercial uses for this equipment had been found even before 
the United States Navy adopted the service at the time of the 
World War. The teletypewriter has proved to be a valuable 
adjunct to the police communication system. In a number of 
cities it is the medium of communication between headquar- 
ters and the scattered precinct stations, and it is rapidly be- 
coming the instrument chiefly relied upon for long-distance 
intercity police communication. The teletypewriter is super- 
seding other means of communication in these two specific 
fields because it combines the speed of the telephone and the 
accuracy of the typewriter with the authority and perma- 
nence of the printed word. This new service first demon- 
strated its efficiency in the Times Square subway disaster of 
1928. The precision and speed with which, through its use, 
the police headquarters mobilized the reserve forces of sev- 
eral divisions and the patrolmen on duty in many precincts, 
clearly proved that Commissioner Warren was not indulging 
in a mere flight of oratory when he characterized the new in- 
stallation as "one of the most perfectly coordinated commu- 
nication systems used in any line of business." The results 
obtained in other cities Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, 

46 Police Communication Systems 

Chicago, Buffalo, Portland, and Seattle have in large meas- 
ure repeated the New York experience. The further develop- 
ment of county, state, and regional teletypewriter networks 
marks a new era in the coordination of police agencies and 
emphasizes the continued growth in use and importance of 
this instrument in the police field. 

In 1902, Major Richard Sylvester, President of the Inter- 
national Association of Chiefs of Police, commented in his 
presidential address upon the then novel transmission of 
photographs by means of telegraph wires and prophesied im- 
portant police uses for this unusual communication process. 
The problem of transmitting a photograph or drawing over 
a distance by means of electricity has occupied the attention 
of many engineers and scientists for more than three-quarters 
of a century. Of the early attempts to effect the telegraphic 
transmission of pictures, the system developed by Bakewell 
is of particular significance. His experiments, which came to 
the notice of the scientific world as early as 1847, made use of 
two revolving drums, one at the transmitting and one at the 
receiving end. The rotation of these cylinders was, as far as 
possible, synchronized. Upon the transmitting cylinder were 
placed a thin sheet of tinfoil, upon which the sketch was drawn 
with a specially prepared ink, and a nonconductor of elec- 
tricity. The passing of a small metal contact over the cylinder 
broke and closed the circuit as it crossed the inked markings 
of the sketch, these current interruptions being passed over 
suitable lines to the receiving apparatus. Wrapped on the re- 
ceiving cylinder was a sheet of paper so prepared chemically 
that the passage of an electrical current caused changes in 
the chemical composition of the surface, leaving small marks 
or stains. With both cylinders synchronized, the transmitted 
current interruptions could be made to reproduce an approxi- 
mate copy of the original sketch. 

Amstutz, Shelf ord Bidwell, Gaselli, Charbonelle, and other 
European inventors carried Bakewell's experiments further, 
but it was not until the mathematical calculations of Profes- 
sor Arthur Korn, a German mathematician, resulted in an 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 47 

improved use of the selenium cell, that telephotography 
became commercially attractive. The metal selenium, when 
kept at a definite high temperature, usually 200 C, assumes 
the crystalline state and becomes electrically conductive and 
senstive to light. In this apparatus, Korn employed for 
transmission purposes a transparent photograph printed on 
a celluloid or gelatin film which was wrapped tightly around 
a revolving cylinder. A beam of light was made to pass 
through the photographic negative, and thence through a 
prism which reflected the beam upon a selenium cell. The 
spiral revolution of the cylinder was so regulated that the 
beam of light would in time cover all parts of the photograph, 
the intensity of the light at any instant depending on the 
density of the photographic film in the part traversed at that 
moment. The beam of light falling upon the selenium would 
therefore always vary in accordance with the density of the 
photograph. The section of the photograph embraced by the 
pencil of light threading its way over the image was about 
3 by 2 millimeters in area ; small details could not be trans- 
mitted, as several would be encompassed by the beam at one 
time ; and this made it difficult to transmit any but the most 
simple diagrams and sketches. 

The first photograph transmitted by Korn's selenium ma- 
chine was sent from Berlin to the Paris office of the French 
illustrated weekly, L 'Illustration, in October, 1907. A Paris- 
London phototelegraphic service was begun on November 7, 
1907, the first photograph, a likeness of King Edward VII, 
being sent from Paris to the London office of the Daily Mirror. 
The year 1908 is especially important in the history of tele- 
photography as far as the police were concerned. In that year 
the photograph of a criminal named Hedermann was tele- 
graphed from Paris to London and published in the Daily 
Mirror. The picture was recognized by someone in London 
who knew him and who gave information to the police which 
finally led to his apprehension. 

An inventor, Edouard Belin, had for some time been en- 
gaged in developing apparatus of his own design for the 

48 Police Communication Systems 

transmission of pictures. By 1920, Belin's developments in 
this field gave positive proof of their value and presaged an 
event of more than ordinary significance in the history of 
police communication ; for experts closely associated with po- 
lice service were quick to see the potential value of this device 
in the transmission of fingerprints and photographs of crim- 

The first actual transmission of fingerprints by wire was 
done in Paris early in 1921, at the instance of Professor Sal- 
vador Ottolenghi, an Italian. Working with two assistants in 
Paris, M. Belin and M. Rainferi, he reproduced successfully 
the first fingerprints transmitted by telegraph. The prints, 
of course, exhibited numerous imperfections; the papillary 
lines, especially, presenting at various points many fractures, 
which rendered a comparison difficult. Nevertheless, they 
were good enough to convince the professor that it would be 
possible to obtain a perfectly clear image with Belin's ap- 

Confident of utimate success, he related the matter to Sena- 
tor Vigiliani, General Director of Public Safety. After an 
explanation of the possibilities and the benefits that the na- 
tion would derive from the use of the device, the director 
ordered him back to Paris to investigate further Belin's 
experiments and to make suggestions for necessary improve- 
ments. He arrived in the French capital on the first of June, 
and resumed work with Belin at the latter's research lab- 
oratory. On the night of June 3, the transmission of finger- 
prints from Lyons to Paris with Belin's machine was accom- 
plished with most satisfactory results and these experiments 
were repeated from the office of the Matin. On June 4, other 
tests were made in the presence of the representative of the 
Italian Embassy, the Marquis del Vascello, and several Ital- 
ian and French newspapermen. After critical, detailed ex- 
amination of the prints, it was concluded that the image had 
been transmitted with mathematical precision. The French, 
the Italian, and the international press followed these experi- 
ments with great interest. Further transmissions were made 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 49 

in the presence of M. Beyle, head of the Judiciary Depart- 
ment of Police, M. Baldasarre, technical consultant of the 
department, and other important officials of the French po- 
lice. On one occasion Belin was able to transmit from Paris to 
Lyons the photograph of a convict, with corresponding finger- 
prints, in seven minutes and twenty-five seconds. 

During this period, many police experts had become inter- 
ested in the new discovery, including Dr. De Recther, Direc- 
tor of the School of Police Science of Brussels, who discussed 
the subject in the Review of Penology and Medical Jurispru- 
dence, and Dr. Stockis, Professor of Medical Jurisprudence 
in the University of Liege. "The international identification 
of criminals," wrote Professor Stockis, "is the full realization 
of a most important problem in the field of public safety, and 
it should not be considered an exaggeration to say that this 
discovery constitutes the most precious weapon the police 
have in successfully fighting international crime." 

In 1922, Korn came to Italy, where he continued his experi- 
ments with the aid of the Ministry of the Navy. Through the 
suggestions of Professor Ottolenghi, he became intensely in- 
terested in the possibilities of telephotography in criminal 
identification and subsequently, in many experiments, proved 
that absolute identification could be made through fingerprint 
impressions transmitted by wire. 

Thus science again placed itself at the disposal of the po- 
lice, and a new instrument was made available in the develop- 
ment of communication facilities. To the Italian professor 
belongs the credit for the first recognition of the great poten- 
tial usefulness of telephotography in police work. From the 
records, it would appear that this invention grew and devel- 
oped almost entirely under the guidance of foreign engineers 
and inventors. To German, Italian, and French scholars be- 
longs the greater credit for its introduction, although it is 
definitely known that Alexander Graham Bell, American in- 
ventor of the telephone, had independently recognized the 
telegraphic transmission of images as an engineering possi- 

50 Police Communication Systems 

Prior to 1923, the technical staff of American telephone 
companies had been working steadily on the development of 
telephotographic apparatus suitable for regular commercial 
use. In an astonishingly short time by 1925, to be exact 
regular telephoto service was offered to the public of the 
United States by the commercial communication companies. 
Although the expense involved at present prevents a general 
use of telephoto facilities by the police of the United States, 
the future utilization of this type of communication in po- 
lice service is certain. In Germany, wireless police telephoto 
sending and receiving machines have been installed in Ber- 
lin and several other cities for experimental purposes. Should 
the results obtained justify the expenditure, it is planned to 
extend the system throughout Germany and to members of 
the International Police Radio System. 

With the growing complexity of law enforcement and the 
increased demands upon the police, there is need for an agency 
commissioned to foster the development and use of modern 
communication methods and equipment in the police field. 
Every effort should be made for the early organization of a 
national association of police communication officers in the 
United States, so chartered and organized as to permit its 
later expansion into an international association. Such an ex- 
pert body of men could make recommendations to the Inter- 
national Association of Chiefs of Police on questions which 
are of vital concern to the service. Further, the new associa- 
tion, through its collective power and opinion, would be in a 
position to initiate proposals for comprehensive police-com- 
munication projects which must otherwise wait for the tide 
to come in. Growth of regional communication systems and 
the development of a national police-communication network, 
among others, would be given immediate impetus through the 
organized efforts of the association. Annual conventions 
would afford opportunity for the expert presentation of vari- 
ous phases of the complex police-communication problem : 
many questions in this field await competent analysis. Rec- 
ords of convention proceedings would be valuable documents 

Beginnings of Modern Communication 51 

and, through their distribution to the profession, would 
awaken interest in the possibilities of modern communication 
in police service. Thus may those who see ahead pave the way 
for others in the general advance toward an efficient police 
system. 12 

The scientific horizon is being constantly widened. In thou- 
sands of laboratories, chemistry and physics are yielding new 
ideas and discoveries for the advancement of man's knowl- 
edge, many of which have a direct application in the field of 
communication. Toward these the police attitude is one of 
keen interest, since they know full well that the practical 
equipment and methods in use today are based upon the in- 
novations and discoveries of yesterday. 

With this general panorama of communication in mind, we 
come to consider at close range, in the following chapters, the 
conditions which have made the communication system a 
major factor in police administration. 

12 The ideas expressed here have assumed tangible form, with the 
recent organization of the Associated Police Communication Officers. 
Its membership includes communication officers throughout the United 
States and its strength is rapidly growing. Headquarters are at In- 
dianapolis; Robert L. Batts, of that city, is president (1936). 



BECAUSE OP THE DUAL advantage of telephone communica- 
tion, its adaptability to police uses for two-way service 
between commanding officers and patrolmen, and its instant 
convenience for calls from citizens, telephone service in the 
modern police department has come to be the very backbone 
of its communication system. It carries most of the communi- 
cation load, as it should. Although supplemented in police 
operations by highly specialized communication apparatus 
such as radio and the teletypewriter, the versatile telephone 
continues to meet the immediate demands of the police when 
conversation between two persons at more or less distant 
points is necessary. 

In the setting up of a telephone system, the primary prob- 
lem is one of economic selection how to do the satisfactory 
thing at the lowest cost. Police telephone systems in the United 
States range in size from the very small village system, which 
might consist of only a single line or two from the local central 
office, to the elaborate and complex systems used by the metro- 
politan police of the largest cities. The smallest-sized system 
differs in no way from that which serves the general telephone 
subscriber. The police telephone system begins to be different 
when the private branch exchange switchboard is introduced. 


For the small town, or the city where all police operations are 
centered in one station, a one- or two-position switchboard 
will suffice, depending upon the size of the force and the num- 
ber of call boxes necessary in policing the geographic divi- 
sions of the town. Terminating at this switchboard are the 
lines from the local central office, the extension lines serving 
telephones used by the officers, the detectives, and the head- 
quarters staff, and extension lines connected with the beat 


The Modern Police Telephone System 53 

telephone system. Burglar- and holdup-alarm lines from lo- 
cal banks and mercantile establishments may also be con- 
nected to the police switchboard. Many installations of this 
smaller-community class also provide direct extension lines 
to the homes of the chief executives of the department and to 
the central office of the local fire department ; and other ex- 
tensions may be provided to meet special requirements of in- 
dividual departments. 

In planning the telephone communication system for the 
smaller community, it is important to provide facilities ade- 
quate to meet the emergencies that may arise, as well as the 
routine w r ork of the department. Of great importance is the 
provision of a sufficient number of trunk lines to the local cen- 
tral office. A single telephone line in use is a barrier to the 
citizen who is trying to call the police department in an emer- 
gency, and quite useless to the operator at the police depart- 
ment switchboard if he wishes to relay a call for assistance to 
the hospital, to the fire department, or to divisions of the 
police department. Busy central trunk lines may paralyze 
an entire department for several minutes when seconds may 
mean the difference between life and death, or between cap- 
ture and escape. Adequate facilities to the local central office 
should be provided well in advance of present requirements 
so that in emergencies there will be no delay in summoning 
police aid. Emergencies are not infrequently accompanied by 
a sudden increase in telephone traffic over the police switch- 
board, which may cripple the entire system unless provision 
is made for peak-traffic periods. Switchboards provided by 
the telephone companies are usually designed to permit en- 
largement or expansion as the increased business of the de- 
partment makes this necessary. 


The large metropolitan telephone communication system is 
essentially a combination of smaller units of the same type as 
those used by the smaller cities. These are linked together 
by tie lines into a larger system, and the operating routine 

54 Police Communication Systems 

changed so as to permit the complex and more extensive sys- 
tem to function as simply as the small unit. 

For administrative purposes, the large city is usually di- 
vided into police districts, or precincts, each one of which is 
provided with a telephone system comparable to that outlined 
for the small city. These precinct systems are in turn con- 
nected to the police switchboard at divisional or central head- 
quarters by direct lines. In most installations, all call-box 
extension lines come into the district switchboard, where a 
record is kept of the patrolmen reporting. In a few cities, 
beat telephone systems are wired direct to central headquar- 
ters. Although the wisdom of this arrangement is open to seri- 
ous criticism, the number of such installations may increase 
because of the centralizing effect of radio communication. In 
a few places, the adoption of radio patrol has prompted the 
abandonment of substations altogether. Modern police prac- 
tice, however, seems to favor the retention of a decentralized 
system so far as beat communication is concerned. 1 

The district or precinct switchboard is provided with the 
necessary number of trunk-line connections with the central 
telephone exchange, much the same as in the telephone system 
described for the smaller community. In order to coordinate 
the decentralized system in large cities, it is necessary to pro- 
vide a large amount of equipment at headquarters to tie these 
scattered units together into one properly functioning whole. 

Telephone traffic handled by police communication systems 
falls into two classes. There are (1) the calls concerned with 
administrative matters and the ordinary business calls, and 
(2) the assistance or emergency calls calls having to do with 
requests for police aid from the public or from police in other 
parts of the city and outside jurisdictions. In the metropoli- 
tan department where the volume of both types of call is 
great, they are segregated and handled by means of separate 
equipment in the communication bureau. In this situation the 
private branch exchange switchboard is used to handle ad- 

1 See Chapter IX, "Coordination of the Police Communication System" 
(p. 298). 

The Modern Police Telephone System 55 

ministrative calls that require switching and the connection 
of incoming lines with extension stations, and an order-receiv- 
ing turret is employed to accommodate with dispatch the calls 
requiring police action. Where headquarters equipment is 
thus provided in two units, adequate provision is made for in- 
terconnection, so that any calls coming in to one unit may be 
transferred to the other when necessary. 

Order-receiving equipment is designed to permit the speedy 
answering of incoming calls, and is used where there is no 
need for interconnection of incoming trunk lines with exten- 
sion stations or other telephones. Jacks with attendant pilot 
lamps are mounted on both sides of the turret, each side 
serving as an operating position. When a call is indicated, 
the operator plugs in the jack designated by the lighted pilot 
lamp, answers the call, records the information, and after tak- 
ing the action necessary to give police aid, is ready to answer 
another call. The order-receiving turret is also designed to 
accommodate outgoing facilities. Thus, a police-turret opera- 
tor may take a call for assistance from a citizen and then call 
out over one of his outgoing trunk lines, some of which may 
be private wires to other departments or hospitals, in order 
to relay the call for assistance to the point where action may 
be taken. In addition, where the department makes use of 
radio communication, facilities are provided enabling the tur- 
ret operator to "cut in" the radio dispatcher on conversations 
when the incoming crime report is important enough to make 
this action advisable. 

The system described is, to be sure, subject to minor varia- 
tions, depending upon individual problems and conditions 
and in some measure upon the ingenuity and interest of those 
in charge of the Communications Bureau. In Chicago, for 
example, all incoming calls for police assistance generally ar- 
rive at one central turret, the operator of which commands a 
view of fifteen or more telephone stalls or booths, each manned 
by an operator and equipped with a standard telephone and 
direct extension to the radio dispatcher. The operator of this 
turret answers no calls, but acts as a telephone dispatcher, 


Police Communication Systems 


=x==r . = j^j:L^ 


Cj*NAL - 20C 

SPRING 7-5100 








ill I 
j 1 1 * 

/^ r = zr =E==-;E=::=Ei^ / 






Telephone layouts for police headquarters and 
police department precincts. 

switching the incoming call to the operator who at the mo- 
ment is not occupied. The essential information is recorded 
upon a report form which is then delivered to the radio dis- 
patcher or to one of a group of operators who handle incom- 

The Modern Police Telephone System 57 

ing and outgoing calls to district stations. If to the latter, 
the information is telephoned to precinct headquarters, from 
which point the report is finally received by the beat patrol- 
man or other officer for investigation. If there is an emergency 
crime report, the operator signals the dispatcher, who may 
listen to the conversation and thus save time by gaining im- 
mediate possession of the facts essential for the broadcast. 

Most of the crime reports in the large American city ar- 
rive by telephone. It is necessary, in order that the police de- 
partment may give the most valuable service, that these calls 
reach quickly the point where direct action may be taken. In 
this respect the telephone communication system of the large 
police department acts merely as the agent of transfer. Of- 
ficers in charge of communication are primarily responsible 
for establishing a routine which will accomplish this transfer 
quickly and accurately. A satisfactory routine which has been 
used with success in several large cities may be outlined by 
tracing a call from its inception to the point of action. 

The citizen who wishes to communicate with the police may 
call the headquarters emergency number direct ; he may say 
to the central-office operator, "I want a policeman," or he may 
call the number of his local precinct station. Calls made either 
way should accomplish the same result. If the call comes in to 
the precinct switchboard, the operator there takes down the 
details and, if the matter is one of minor importance, turns it 
over to the precinct organization. If the call is of major im- 
portance, he records the details just the same, dismisses the 
citizen, and telephones the information over his direct wire 
to the order-receiving turret at headquarters. Here the call 
is received, a record made, and the matter referred to the 
proper department : it may go to the radio broadcasting room, 
the teletypewriter bureau, the detective division, or the hos- 
pital. Occasionally several different divisions must be noti- 
fied, in the order of their importance to the case in hand. 

If the citizen says to the operator, "I want a policeman," 
the call is given to the headquarters switchboard without be- 
ing sent through the precinct organization. If it prove of 

The Modern Police Telephone System 59 

minor importance, the report is referred back by telephone 
to the district headquarters concerned. If the report is of an 
emergency, or is otherwise of major importance, it is han- 
dled as was the call from district headquarters previously 

In order that there may be no chance for an error in judg- 
ment on the part of the district-headquarters operator, police 
manuals of procedure specify calls which must be transferred 
to headquarters, so that an operator willfully failing to dis- 
patch the prescribed information becomes subject to disci- 
plinary treatment. In several cities, all telephone switchboard 
and order-turret operating instructions are included in the 
manual of procedure. 


Since conditions so far have not dictated a special design or 
construction, switchboards used in police work are the same 
as those supplied by the telephone company to commercial 
establishments. These range in size from the small cordless, 
or "key" switchboards, to the large type of private branch 
exchange, similar to the central office switchboards in use 
throughout the Bell system. Telephone engineers, when called 
upon to make a study, first obtain a record of the volume and 
kind of traffic, and then decide upon and recommend the 
proper facilities with which to handle that traffic. To provide 
the type of service required by the modern police department, 
the telephone system should be planned properly and oper- 
ated efficiently. Of these two, the latter requirement is by no 
means the less important one. 

No police communication s} r stem can give adequate service 
unless it is used properly. No matter how many millions of 
dollars may be spent upon cables, laboratory research, line 
equipment, switchboards, and other facilities, the quality of 
police telephone service will yet depend in large measure upon 
the human element, the operator at the police switchboard. 
Efficient operation is dependent upon three factors : the selec- 
tion of men fit for the job, the competent training of these 

60 Police Communication Systems 

men, and adequate supervision of the operating task. Ac- 
cording to telephone engineers, the neglect of any of these 
factors usually results in a poor grade of service, and thus 
retards action and lowers efficiency in every branch of the 

Since the operator bears such a direct relation to the suc- 
cess or failure of communication in police service, what are 
his qualifications ? Speed, judgment, accuracy, and courtesy 
are among the essentials. He is responsible for the initial ac- 
tion, and that action must be accomplished without lost mo- 
tion or hesitation. In emergencies, he is the first to receive 
information and the operating divisions of the force are de- 
pendent upon him for its prompt receipt and transfer. 

Furthermore, the value of promptness and dispatch at the 
switchboard in promoting a friendly public attitude toward 
the department is of considerable importance. The complain- 
ant refuses, and justly so, to stand quietly in line and wait 
his turn as he would at a theater or railway ticket office. He 
is in a hurry or he would not be at the telephone and he is so 
completely overwhelmed with the matter to be reported that 
he is quite unmindful of competing calls that may be coming 
in. Any delay is a direct personal affront and makes a vivid 
impression upon his mind. Later explanations in answer to 
a citizen's complaint of delay are of little avail, regardless of 
what they may be, and only tend to compromise the depart- 
ment and its chief executives. It is much better to give prompt 
service in the beginning. 

This necessity of promptness in answering calls and in re- 
laying messages cannot be overemphasized. A minute's delay, 
often a second's hesitation, may mean the difference between 
success and failure in a criminal investigation ; it may mean 
the difference between life and death to a citizen or an officer 
in danger. Stop-watch observations should be made to deter- 
mine the time interval of response on these calls, and when- 
ever the average is in excess of from five to ten seconds, steps 
should be taken to correct the condition. Modern police or- 
ganizations know that speed in answering incoming calls is 

The Modern Police Telephone System 61 

imperative ; if difficulty is had in getting satisfactory results, 
the advice of the local telephone company should be requested. 

Speed, however, should not be attained at the sacrifice of 
thoroughness and accuracy. The newspaper editor's admoni- 
tion to his reporters, "Get it first, but first get it right," can 
well be given to the operators of a police switchboard. Inac- 
curate information may mean the sending of aid to the wrong 
address, time wasted, or even complete failure in an emer- 
gency. Inaccuracy may be consistently shown by operators 
whose judgment and other qualifications are above criticism. 
Nevertheless, if they make the necessary adjustment only 
with difficulty, they should be replaced. 

In attaining accuracy at the police switchboard, clear pro- 
nunciation and a resonant voice are essential. Much of the 
difficulty in connection with numbers is eliminated by sepa- 
rating the hundred by means of emphasis ; for example, L234. 
A rising inflection sustains the sound so that it reaches the 
hearer clearly. It also helps if the voice is raised in a question- 
ing tone 011 the last digits of numbers and when answering 
calls; for example, "1234? Police?" It is not hard to speak 
clearly and distinctly, giving proper form to all the sounds 
which make up every word and number. Given a voice with 
average tone and resonance qualities, maximum clearness is 
produced by speaking in the ordinary conversational tone, 
with the mouth a half-inch from the mouthpiece and directly 
in front of it. Increased volume causes distortion. Shouting 
into the mouthpiece generates a sound congestion and excites 
the transmitter to the point of saturation and beyond, making 
intelligible speech difficult if not impossible. 

In the record procedure of an increasing number of police 
departments, the memoranda made by the operator in receiv- 
ing calls for the police are the basis for the police master com- 
plaint record card. This card is usually typewritten on a pre- 
scribed form as soon as the operator has taken the action re- 
quired by the call, and is given a consecutive serial number. 
Investigating officers assigned to the call file written reports 
bearing the same serial number, and these are attached to the 

62 Police Communication Systems 

original complaint card, forming an orderly and complete 
record. Although actual record procedure is as varied as are 
police departments, in most of them the original information 
obtained by the operator subsequently becomes part of the 
permanent police record. 

Inaccuracy in the information set down by the operator, it 
is easily seen, may cripple the record system. Some letters of 
the alphabet have a phonetic similarity, and where there is a 
possibility of error the questioned letter should be specifically 
identified. The most useful method is much the same as that 
used in broadcasting reports of stolen automobiles : "Calling 
all cars, a stolen auto, license 6-B (B as in Boy) 6346." Under 
the most trying conditions, this simple expedient will enable 
the operator to obtain exact information. 

Good judgment is imperative in efficient switchboard op- 
eration. The daily routine of the police operator is sharply 
punctuated with emergency situations, and the ability to 
make rapid-fire decisions in a crisis is among his first quali- 
fications. He should have poise, alertness, and unfailing pres- 
ence of mind. The emergency is the supreme test of a police 
communication system ; it is equally the proving ground 
where the individual either qualifies or is eliminated as an 

On the balance sheets of large corporations, the value of 
good will, that intangible asset, is sometimes expressed in six 
and seven figures. In police work, courtesy in human contacts 
pays big dividends. The mandate of some police departments, 
"Kill them with kindness," might with profit become a part of 
the police code of ethics in many others. The police-exchange 
operator is in a position to do as much as any other person in 
the organization, if not more, in introducing courtesy into the 
department's contact with the public. He should be able to 
replace friction in conversation with the ease of politeness. 
It is not difficult to converse politely with a citizen whose at- 
titude for the moment is colored with malice and complaint. 
The person with a "chip on his shoulder" is correspondingly 
weak, and the person with an even temperament, inherited or 

The Modern Police Telephone System 63 

acquired, is thereby the stronger and will dominate the situa- 
tion. Adroit and tactful conversation may win a permanent 
friend for the department. Retaliatory conversation arouses 
antagonism and wastes time ; there should be brevity but not 
abruptness. Politeness by 110 means implies a lack of firmness ; 
the two qualities are not contradictory, but supplementary. 

It is the policy of every organization to win friends and to 
hold them. The police operator can promote friendly relations 
with members of the community by cultivating the habit of 
distinct speech and a pleasant tone of voice, devoid of any in- 
dication of haste or impatience. A courteous attitude will go 
far in convincing a citizen that the department exists to pro- 
tect him, his family, and his property from harm ; it will reas- 
sure him in his difficulties, and secure his willing cooperation. 

Many observers of human behavior believe that the voice 
is a potent factor in expressing personality. Speech is a deli- 
cate, subtle, and powerful form of behavior; therefore the 
way in which a thing is said, and the sound of it, are often 
as important as the message. It is said that Joseph Conrad, 
on hearing two sailors speak English in the darkness, adopted 
it as the language of his choice. The listener is apt to evaluate 
the department in terms of the person with whom he speaks. 

In the selection of police operators, the approved practice 
in the more modern police organizations is to recruit opera- 
tors direct from the force, since experience as a patrolman is 
very desirable in this type of work. Sometimes lay candidates 
who have a preference for police work and would be willing 
to take its responsibilities seriously are given the opportun- 
ity. Good hearing, of course, is essential. Usually, however, 
the operator selected has a good record of two years on the 
force, or the time spent on police duty is sufficient to have 
given him a fair knowledge of the department's operating 
procedure. A prominent police executive on the Pacific Coast 
selects for operators men who give promise of being advanced 
to higher positions. His reasons are two : (1) the value of ex- 
perience at the police switchboard, and (2) the fact that quali- 
ties and capabilities which foretell a probable advancement 

64 Police Communication Systems 

in police work indicate the person's fitness to be an efficient 

The proper men having been selected, they must be ade- 
quately trained. Not enough attention has been given to the 
intelligent training of police officers for work at the switch- 
board. The prospective operator too often receives a mini- 
mum of instruction and must work out his own salvation. It 
is like placing a new recruit on patrol duty without first hav- 
ing him work under the supervision of a patrol sergeant. 

Correct training is usually divided into three stages, which 
may be varied with different individuals : listening-in with 
an auxiliary set of headphones at the switchboard that he 
will later operate, classroom instruction, and actual practice 
in handling calls under supervision all under instructors 
thoroughly experienced in operating practice and technique. 
After a certain amount of classroom instruction, practice, and 
listening-in at the main switchboard, the neophyte operates 
a position at the switchboard during light traffic hours under 
an experienced operator. Police calls are of no set type. They 
vary greatly, and the best instruction is that which includes 
the actual operation of the board, although this should not be 
undertaken before the operator has mastered the mechanics 
of switchboard technique. Pamphlets dealing with the me- 
chanical arrangement of the switchboard and its operation 
have been published by the telephone companies, and police 
departments have only to ask for them. 

Local telephone companies often admit police operators to 
their private branch exchange operators' training school, and 
in several of the larger cities instruction in switchboard op- 
eration is included in the curriculum of the police school, as 
it is in New York, where training apparatus has been sup- 
plied to the police department by the New York Telephone 

Correct supervision of the operating force is essential to all 
good telephone service. This is even more important with men 
than with women operators. Good supervision keeps an ade- 
quate force on duty at all times ; it insures attentiveness to 

The Modern Police Telephone System 65 

the work in hand, courtesy in handling; calls, and thorough- 
ness and accuracy with respect to the details of each call han- 
dled. Without these things, the service cannot be of the best. 

Auxiliary to the police switchboard are the "records" which 
serve as a means of ready reference to the operator on duty. 
These auxiliary records expedite communication operations 
tremendously, and the best police organizations supply them 
to the operator. Besides the local telephone directory, they 
generally include the items named in the accompanying list 
(p. 66). 

It becomes a simple matter to arrange these records so that 
all the information necessary in emergency situations may 
be found quickly. 


For several years after the invention of the telephone, when 
exchange telephone service was first coming into use, switch- 
boards were operated by men. This arrangement was short- 
lived, however, for the operating companies found that 
women were better adapted to telephone operating. Both men 
and women are employed as operators of police switchboards. 
The women are considered the better telephone operators; 
yet their assignment to the operating position has definite dis- 

Women are quieter, they have natural aptitudes suitable 
to switchboard operation, and their employment as police op- 
erators has the over-all advantage of affording a higher and 
more uniform grade of service in some respects, as well as a 
more courteous service. Their employment may also be fa- 
vored for economic reasons ; generally, women telephone op- 
erators can be employed at a rate of pay below that received 
by the police officer who has been taken from the ranks to 
perform this type of work. A position at the police switch- 
board, however, involves more than mere switchboard op- 
eration. Women assigned to such positions should undergo 
intensive training if they are to perform efficiently the func- 
tions of a police operator. Training is necessarily costly, al- 

66 Police Communication Systems 


1. Telephone directories of near-by cities and towns 

2. City directories 

3. Day and night telephone numbers of all department executives 

4. Home address and telephone number of every member of the depart- 
ment (two lists, one alphabetical and one geographic by residence) 

5. Complete list of hospitals in the area served 

6. List of local physicians, including County Physician and Health 
Officer, who may be available in an extreme emergency 

7. Telephone numbers and addresses of executives of all other muni- 
cipal departments, such as Recreation, Health, Welfare, etc. 

8. List of outside ambulances 

9. Telephone number and address of coroner 

10. Copy of plans and maps covering operation of the police department 
under disaster conditions 

11. List and spot map of all police telephone boxes 

12. List and spot map of police recall signals 

13. List of office intercommunication telephones 

14. List and spot map of all bank, holdup, and burglar alarms installed 
in the area 

15. List and location of all fire-alarm boxes 

16. List of all banks and telephone numbers of their principal executives 

17. List of all private night watchmen aand private patrolmen 

18. List of principal mercantile establishments which are special police 
hazards, such as jewelry stores and theaters, with night telephone 
numbers of proprietors and managers 

19. List and telephone numbers of outside police departments in the 
immediate area 

20. Location of all safes in the area 

21. Telephone numbers of nearest military authorities 

22. List and telephone numbers of available experts chemists, metal- 
lurgists, geologists, and other specialists, who can be relied upon for 
immediate response 

23. Maps. (The operator should have conveniently beside him a map of 
the area served, showing beat boundaries at different periods of the 
day, names of streets, and with the 100-blocks designated. This 
should be supplemented by an individual map of each police beat, 
which, besides the names of streets and the 100-block designations, 
should show the location of potential emergencies and principal po- 
lice hazards. Auxiliary diagrams and plans should be available for 
each major contingency, outlining a covering plan in the event such 
emergency materializes.) 

24. List of all public and private schools in the area 

25. Other lists and maps as dictated by the experience of the department. 

The Modern Police Telephone System 67 

though the cost should not outweigh the savings represented 
in lower salaries. Again, because of the control by communi- 
cation of the movements of the force, the operator in many 
organizations is virtually the director of their operations, dis- 
patching and concentrating officers at first one point and then 
another, as the usual procession of emergencies comes to the 
attention of the police. In such situations, the abilities of an 
executive are required in order that the movements of the 
force may be directed to the best advantage, and it is here 
that experienced officers may be assumed to possess the ad- 
vantage as police operators. Furthermore, switchboard op- 
eration can be rated as a valuable training ground for mem- 
bers of the force. Ordinarily, the duties of the operator give 
him a perspective of the general operations of the organiza- 
tion not afforded by any other position in the department. 
With this idea in view, the executive of one Western organi- 
zation rotates assignments in such a manner that each mem- 
ber of the force may serve at the switchboard. 

Generally speaking, the evidence indicates that in the best- 
organized police departments there is a preference for male 
operators. The final decision on this matter, however, must 
await the results of further experience. Women police op- 
erators are still employed in many departments throughout 
the country and many of them have proved equal to the task 
in emergency situations. 


The administrative communication system in a police depart- 
ment functions much the same as that in any large commer- 
cial organization, and the private branch exchange system is 
used by both. But that part of the telephone communication 
plan which has to do purely with matters concerning police 
action the emergency system shows many differences. The 
correct use of the administrative system lies chiefly in the 
recognition of these differences and in the solution of the 
problem of how to keep the administrative system from im- 
pairing the efficiency of the emergency system. 

68 Police Communication Systems 

Tie lines, connecting outlying offices with headquarters, are 
usually provided for handling 1 emergency calls, and should 
be reserved for emergency information demanding quick ac- 
tion. If employed for the usual routine calls in connection 
with administration, they are apt to be busy when an emer- 
gency call is received and thus the vital purpose for which 
they were provided is frustrated. All calls relating to ad- 
ministrative matters should therefore be handled over the 
central-office trunk lines and not over the tie lines. 

This problem of the restriction of certain functions to each 
unit is bound up with the larger necessity for adequate facili- 
ties, no matter what they are to be used for. This is imperative 
for the emergency system and highly desirable for the ad- 
ministrative system, as the police administrative force ham- 
pered by inadequate telephone facilities functions just as 
poorly as the business concern handicapped by the lack of 
specialized telephone equipment. Every person on the ad- 
ministrative force who has need of a telephone should have 
access to an extension and not be forced to neglect other du- 
ties while searching for a telephone to use. Efficiency is as 
essential in the office as on the beat. In the best-designed in- 
stallations, provision is made for the connection of all head- 
quarters telephones to the headquarters switchboard ; but 
there are certain exceptions, as, for example, officers engaged 
in confidential criminal investigations. These officers have pri- 
vate telephones connected directly with the central telephone 
exchange, and the numbers of these phones are not listed in 
the telephone directory nor are they generally known. They 
are used chiefly for outgoing calls. Only subordinates report- 
ing directly to the executive officer in charge of an investi- 
gation have access to them, as a rule, and limitation of the 
number of these users may sometimes be desirable. 

Just as the large business organization does, so the police 
office can profitably make use of special communication- 
equipment facilities that are to be had from the local tele- 
phone companies. These include wiring plans, jack-and-plug 
arrangements, code-calling systems, special visual signals, 

The Modern Police Telephone System 69 

and other accessories to the office telephone system. They are 
used where there is a definite need for equipment auxiliary 
to the ordinary private branch exchange system and usually 
are installed on the recommendation of telephone-company 
engineers after a study of the particular conditions. 

Wiring plans are low-cost arrangements which, when prop- 
erly designed to fit the needs of a particular subdivision of 
the police department, add greatly to the efficiency and con- 
venience of its telephone system. Wiring arrangements now 
standardized by the telephone companies permit of the police 
executive's having any telephone connected with any one of 
two or more lines for use on the line not busy ; for the transfer 
of calls from one telephone to another; for answering any or 
some of the office telephones from another telephone ; for in- 
tercommunication with inside telephones ; for talking over 
one telephone with the assurance that the conversation is not 
being overheard by anyone at any of the other telephones in 
the arrangement ; for holding an incoming call on one line 
while he talks over an outside line or communicates with an 
associate without being overheard by the calling party; for 
having his secretary or attendant receive incoming calls, hold 
the line, and transfer the calls, after which the secretary's 
telephone is cut off ; for listening in by the secretary, who may 
take notes on the conversation. 

Jack-and-plug arrangements are useful in any bureau 
where the files cover an extensive area. By means of this ar- 
rangement, information file clerks with small convenient head- 
sets may receive a call, ask the person calling to hold the line, 
and, by plugging the headset in a jack near the file which con- 
tains the information, resume the conversation while consult- 
ing the records. 

The code-calling system is used as an auxiliary to the main 
switchboard to notify persons who may be absent from their 
usual posts that they are wanted. To each executive, and to 
any other person likely to be called, a code number is as- 
signed. On receiving a call or other request for a person who 
cannot be reached on his regular telephone, the operator at 

70 Police Communication Systems 

the switchboard depresses a key on the code signaling box, 
which causes a code signal to sound in various parts of the 
building. When the person called hears this signal, he goes to 
the nearest telephone and communicates with the switchboard 
operator, who connects him with his call. Direct circuits con- 
nect the code signaling box on the main switchboard with 
signaling devices throughout the building and at other places 
where circumstances warrant it. Gong, bell, muffled chime, or 
any other audible signal device, sounds the proper code. Vis- 
ual signals are installed where silence is necessary or desir- 
able. A separate code signal, or the use of a distinctive gong 
supplemented sometimes by a visual signal, is employed by 
some departments for spreading quickly a general alarm 
throughout headquarters offices. Such a system may also be 
provided with a selective keying arrangement, whereby only 
certain details or divisions may be notified of the emergency, 
such as the homicide detail, or robbery detail. 

Special precautions are often necessary, as in detention cells 
or jails, with which police stations are usually equipped. The 
alarming increase in the frequency with which desperadoes 
escape from county jails and city prisons should be reason 
enough for taking at least the more ordinary precautions. At 
little expense, a jail can be so protected by a communication 
network that such deliveries become physically impossible, 
even though the attempt may have the assistance of corrupt 
jail personnel. With a proper communication system, any ir- 
regularity in normal routine is sufficient to set in play a silent 
alarm at certain near-by points, foil an attempted jail break, 
and perhaps, if escaping prisoners should show armed resist- 
ance, relieve the trial courts of any further concern in the 
matter. Suitable detectors, with connecting lines, may be in- 
stalled so that officers may be forewarned of any unauthor- 
ized tampering with jail equipment or of an attempt at 
escape. 2 In addition, concealed f ootrails, push buttons, or sim- 
ilar devices, may well be placed at convenient places in the 
jail section, in order that the jailer may signal for assistance 

2 See Chapter VIII, "Burglar- and Holdup-alarm Systems" (p. 266). 

The Modern Police Telephone System 71 

in emergency. Some jails are provided with the familiar dic- 
taphone installation, by means of which officers at some re- 
mote point can listen in on conversations between prisoners 
confined in cells. 

In order to provide this protection in the larger jails and 
penitentiaries, more elaborate intercommunication systems 
have been developed, designed not only to secure control over 
persons within such institutions, but also to minimize the pos- 
sibility of a serious prison fire or a prison break. Typical 
of this kind of installation is the prison paging and patrol 
system recently put in operation in the county jail at Los 
Angeles, Calif., where a centrally controlled network of many 
audible and visible signals and extension telephones permits 
immediate contact with all persons on duty in the institu- 
tion and enables the operator to transmit quickly emergency 
alarms of various kinds. 

A system of this type also provides a means for supervising 
the activities of the prison patrol force. By its use the central 
office can get in touch with any or all prison officials, sound 
emergency alarms, and, in an emergency, control the move- 
ments of the entire force. The guard in making his rounds is 
required to push the button of each reporting station on his 
tour. The pushing of this button illuminates a corresponding- 
number at the central station, and the illuminated number of 
the preceding push button becomes dark. As only one number 
for each section is illuminated at any one time, the central- 
station operator always knows the last station at which the 
guard pushed a button. These reporting stations are placed 
at intervals of fifty or sixty feet, and telephones are made a 
part of every third or fourth reporting station or placed at 
strategic points. The obvious value of such intercommunica- 
tion systems is being recognized by public officials, and in- 
stallations of this type will no doubt increase in number. 


Since January 7, 1927, when transatlantic telephone chan- 
nels were officially opened by the American Bell Telephone 

72 Police Communication Systems 

Company, the telephone field has constantly widened. Today 
this long-distance communication system uses more than 
33,000,000 telephones, or about 92 per cent of all telephones 
in use throughout the world. The area thus served covers most 
of North America, much of South America, all Great Britain 
and Northern Ireland, almost all Europe from Brittany to 
the Black Sea, Australia, and cities in Africa. It includes, 
moreover, the islands of Java and Sumatra in the East In- 
dies, Sicily, the Canary Islands, Bermuda, and the Hawaiian 
Archipelago. And a number of large passenger liners while 
at sea maintain telephone contact with this great network 
through ship-to-shore service. 

Although the cost of long-distance telephone service has 
been a prohibiting factor, this service has played an impor- 
tant role in police work for many years. As a means of di- 
rect conversation between distant points, its strategic value in 
emergencies has been demonstrated on numerous occasions. 
As in other lines of endeavor, situations frequently arise in 
police service where direct conversation is the most expedi- 
tious means to the end desired, and on such occasions the 
long-distance telephone is a ready instrument. 


Supplementing the telephone in long-distance communica- 
tion, of course, are commercial -telegraph and cable lines, 
which penetrate every corner of the civilized world. In almost 
every major criminal case in the past twenty years, tele- 
grams have been used to relay important information or to 
request the investigation and apprehension of criminals. In 
the absence of a national communication network operated 
exclusively by the police, the importance of the commercial 
telegraph in police service is not to be minimized. 

All the important cities in the United States are now inter- 
connected by direct trunk telegraph circuits equipped for au- 
tomatic machine operation. Two general classes of telegraph 
service are available, designated as "Immediate" and "De- 
ferred." The "Immediate" service includes the standard "tele- 

The Modern Police Telephone System 73 

gram" or "full-rate message," which takes precedence over all 
other classes of traffic, and the timed- wire service, described 
below. The "Deferred" services include the day letter, the 
serial, the night letter, and the night message. 

The full-rate telegram represents a fast service for all com- 
munications when speed is an urgent requirement. Full-rate 
telegrams are accepted at any hour of the day or night for 
immediate transmission and delivery. Serial service is the 
sending of several communications to one addressee in the 
course of one day ; for example, a running story written by a 
newspaper man during the progress of a news event and sent 
to his newspaper in short sections. 

Serial telegrams, as the name indicates, may be filed in sec- 
tions during the day, and the number of words is unlimited. 
The minimum charge per day is for fifty words, and in de- 
termining the total charge the individual sections are counted 
as having a minimum of fifteen words each. The rates are 
about 20 per cent higher than for the day letter. The number 
of words used in the series of messages (each counted as hav- 
ing at least fifteen words) is totaled and the charge made is at 
the basic rate for the first fifty words, plus one-fifth of the 
basic rate for each additional ten words or less. 

Timed-wire service consists of the transmission, by means 
of a perforated tape, of a message received in the telegraph 
company's operating room from a printer telegraph appara- 
tus operated by the sender and destined to a printer tele- 
graph apparatus on the premises of the addressee. The charge 
is based on the time consumed by the sender in transmitting 
the message to the operating room and on the distance to the 
point of destination. 

The day letter is employed for communications of some 
length the nature of which permits them to be subordinated 
slightly in transmission to the fast-telegram traffic. The cost 
of a 50-word day letter is only one and one-half times that of 
a 10-word fast telegram. One-fifth of the initial 50-word rate 
is charged for each additional ten words or less. The night let- 
ter is an overnight service for messages of some length which 

74 Police Communication Systems 

will serve their purpose if delivered the following morning. 
Night letters are accepted at any hour of the day or night up 
to 2 :00 A.M., for delivery the following morning. The charge 
for the first fifty words or less is the same as for a 10-word fast 
telegram, and one-fifth of the initial 50-word rate is charged 
for each additional ten words or less. Night messages are, in 
effect, short night letters with a lower minimum charge, the 
initial charge being for ten words. Like the night letters, they 
are accepted at any hour of the day or night up to 2 :00 A.M., 
for delivery the following morning. 

Of the various types of message service available, the full- 
rate telegram, day letter, night letter, and night message are 
of primary interest to the police in the solution of their long- 
distance communication problems. However, it is possible 
that, in the future, timed- wire service may be adapted to po- 
lice requirements through the development of a national po- 
lice network to supplement teletypewriter networks already 
in operation. 

Almost all police telegraphic communications concern one 
phase or another of criminal investigation, a circumstance 
which involves peculiar requirements in respect to the con- 
tent and composition of messages. Experience has shown that 
little thought is given to the technique of message composi- 
tion, with the result that frequently the received message is 
so confusing to the reader as almost to require decoding be- 
fore intelligent action can be taken. This situation is due 
primarily to lack of uniformity in police practice. Standard 
information, such as personal descriptions and fingerprint 
formulas more often than not a part of police telegraphic 
communications should be reduced to a standard order and 
form, so that delay and confusion may be eliminated. The 
growing use of teletype communication by the police is stimu- 
lating development in that direction. 

While brevity is, for economy's sake, always desirable in 
writing telegrams and can usually be achieved without im- 
pairing the value of the communication, it should not be car- 
ried to such an extreme that the addressee will be in doubt of 

The Modern Police Telephone System 75 

the sender's exact meaning. All messages should of course be 
written legibly and typewritten whenever possible. Inasmuch 
as the ordinary marks of punctuation are not transmitted in 
telegrams unless the sender demands and pays for this privi- 
lege, it sometimes happens that a possible combination of sen- 
tences may be confusing ; it is then advisable to insert some 
such words as "stop" or "period," in order to clarify the mean- 
ing. Figures are counted as one word each in telegrams, and 
economies can accordingly be effected by using words instead 
of figures. For example, the number "50," if transmitted as 
the word "fifty," is counted as one word instead of two. The 
substitution of words for figures also tends to ensure greater 
accuracy in the transmission of a group of numbers. 

Codes are ordinarily used in telegrams for two purposes, 
economy and secrecy. The general use of codes by police de- 
partments requires that code books be available at all points 
to which such messages might be sent. These books very often 
get into the hands of unauthorized persons, with the result 
that attempts to secure secrecy by this method are not at- 
tended with striking success. In the interests of economy, the 
use of code might conceivably be of some value, as the police 
employees who handle the messages would, as a rule, be avail- 
able to code and decode them without additional cost. This, 
however, requires time. On the whole, therefore, although po- 
lice codes are available for telegraphic communication, it is 
seldom that their use is considered really necessary. 


THE TREND in modern police organization is toward almost 
complete decentralization, and the accompanying recog- 
nition of the individual patrol area or beat as the basic func- 
tional unit has emphasized the importance of communication 
in the police department of today. A recent survey of the per- 
sonnel of the police departments in 390 cities 1 showed a com- 
bined numerical strength of 45,689 ; of this number, 20,791 
were patrolmen assigned to beats. At any one time, therefore, 
approximately half the entire strength of the normal police 
department is dispersed in the field and lost to its commands 
except through whatever means may be provided for com- 
munication between the station and the beat. 

The functions of the beat communication system are closely 
associated with the administrative plan of decentralization 
and distribution of the force. For the better supervision and 
control of the force in large cities, the area policed is divided 
territorially into divisions and precincts. Each precinct is un- 
der the command of a superior officer, usually a captain, who 
is responsible to the divisional commanding officer, and he, in 
turn, is held accountable to central headquarters for the "state 
of affairs" in his jurisdiction. Besides facilitating the physical 
distribution of the men, the division into these smaller areas 
breaks up a large, unwieldy force into comparatively small 
units, each the equivalent of an ordinary community, in which 
crime prevention and crime detection are the direct responsi- 
bility of the commanding officer. The area is further decen- 
tralized by the division of precincts into sections and sections 
again into police beats or posts, the fundamental units of po- 
lice service. Each beat or post consists of a specific well-de- 
fined area traversed by a patrolman. The responsibility of 
the patrolman assigned to a beat is exactly the same as that of 
the officer in command of a precinct. In smaller communities 
1 August Vollmer, unpublished manuscript. 


The Police Beat and Its Equipment 77 

where all police activities are controlled from one station, the 
area is divided into beats in much the same manner as that 
described for precincts in the large city. 

Obviously, the geographic allocation of beats is a matter of 
great importance in distributing the patrol force of a police 
department. The selection of the beat as the point of attack 
in all police operations conforms to the fundamental prin- 
ciples of military strategy, namely, breaking the problem into 
small units and providing for a concentration of power at 
those points where the strength of the opposition is most in 
evidence. The existence of the beat rests upon the conviction 
that effective patrol service is the foundation of police organi- 
zation. The individual patrolman is society's first line of de- 
fense against the criminal. 2 

Because the beat is the fundamental unit of police organi- 
zation, the communication requirements in the beat area 
proper present a problem. The objective is a flexible means 
of two-way communication between the beat and the station. 
This would be a simple matter were it not for the fact that 
the beat patrolman in the modern organization is no longer 
assigned to a fixed post ; he is on patrol in the true sense of the 
word, moving continuously from one part of his beat to an- 
other as an outpost of the crime-fighting organization. Hence, 
a necessity for the location and distribution of communica- 
tion facilities throughout the beat area. Further, two-way 
communication on the modern police beat means more than 
provision for a two-way conversation between the patrolman 
and his station, a service which is made possible by the in- 
stallation of police telephones at several points in the area 
patrolled. There must also be some reliable means which in 
emergencies will permit headquarters to notify the patrolman 
that a two-way conversation is desired. This is accomplished 
through the recall system by the installation, at various 
points in the beat area, of signaling devices which, when op- 
erated by the control mechanism at headquarters, will attract 
the attention of the officer on patrol. Although the two types 

2 August Vollmer, The Police Beat. 

78 Police Communication Systems 

of equipment have separate functions, they are complemen- 
tary to each other, and the experience of police departments 
has proved that the absence of either facility is detrimental 
to patrol efficiency. 

Municipal officials generally, and even police-department 
officials, greatly minimize the importance of adequate com- 
munication between the station and the patrol force. This 
may be due in some measure to a lack of understanding of 
the fundamental principles and the scope of the purposes 
for which such systems have been designed. They are not in- 
tended to make the work of the patrolman more laborious or 
exacting, but rather to provide a helpful facility for the per- 
forming of his work with greater ease, safety, and certainty, 
one through which he can make himself more valuable and 
important to the community. Communication is the instru- 
ment through which the scattered force of the department 
may be mobilized for concentration in emergency situations. 
In the normal routine of police business it expedites opera- 
tions generally, and in the elimination of delay it makes pos- 
sible economy both of time and of man power. Under existing 
conditions and with the specialized subdivisions of police 
work, the number of men available for actual patrol duty, in 
proportion to the amount of work to be done, is much smaller 
on the average than it was twenty or more years ago ; and it is 
therefore sound indeed imperative administrative policy 
to increase the availability and effectiveness of the beat pa- 


As in its early history, so today the police call box on the beat 
has two uses : the regular reporting of beat patrolmen, and 
the sending of information from the station house. Ordinar- 
ily, patrolmen working in eight-hour shifts are required to 
report to the station over a beat telephone at a specified time, 
usually once each hour during their tour of duty. Although 
the reporting interval varies somewhat with different depart- 
ments, there is general agreement that it should not exceed 
one hour. Some departments have adopted a 40-minute re- 

The Police Beat and Its Equipment 79 

porting interval, and a few a 30-minute one. In some organi- 
zations, calling times are staggered so that members of the 
patrol force may be available to the station at close intervals. 
This procedure also prevents a congestion of calls at the 
switchboard. In a period of impending emergencies, patrol- 
men may be instructed to call in at much shorter intervals, as 
the situation may require. Whatever the time interval may 
be, the patrolman calling the station reports his number to 
the operator, and receives and executes instructions. 

The requirements of police telephone service are quite dif- 
ferent from those of commercial telephone service. In the 
latter the central office, or the telephone exchange, as it is 
commonly called, is the medium through which all calls are 
handled. Inasmuch as all calls terminate at some point be- 
yond the telephone exchange, the exchange equipment is de- 
signed to interconnect the circuits of the system so that any 
two parties may carry on a conversation. In police communi- 
cation practice, particularly where the system is limited to a 
single police district, as is true in most municipalities, all 
calls originate or terminate at the police station. 

"Pulling boxes" has always been an important part of the 
service available through the call-box system. In view of the 
future possibilities of protective police work and patrol serv- 
ice, it will, with some modification, gain in importance. In the 
early types of call systems, as indicated in an earlier chapter, 
"pulling boxes" was entirely mechanical. An officer in mak- 
ing his hourly report would press the proper signal button, 
and then pull down the lever of the code-sending mechanism, 
and the call would be transmitted to the station, there to 
appear on the record tape. Identification of the signal box 
from which such a report was made was possible only when 
the box number was included as part of the signal. Substitu- 
tions could be made, someone other than the required patrol- 
man pulling the box. Very little improvement has been made 
in this type of equipment, other than the use of a time stamp 
for part of the box record call in place of the earlier require- 
ment of writing in the time. There is also the possibility of 

80 Police Communication Systems 

functional trouble with the calling and recording equipment. 
The telephone has therefore come to be the principal link 
between the station and the beat. 

Three requirements govern the selection of police box tele- 
phone equipment : the instrument selected must give a good 
grade of transmission to the station switchboard ; it must be 
housed in a waterproof cabinet so as to prevent damage from 
weather conditions ; and it must be simple enough to be easily 
operated and maintained. Several kinds of police telephone 
sets are available which adequately fulfill these requirements. 
The set usually employed in the United States consists of a 
standard telephone mounted in an iron casing which shelters 
it from the weather and ensures its operation under adverse 
conditions. It may be equipped with signal bells somewhat 
louder in tone than the ordinary telephone set, so that the 
patrolman on the beat, if known to be near the box, as when 
temporarily assigned to a fixed post in emergency situations, 
may be summoned without delay to communicate with the 

As a general rule, the box which houses the equipment is 
provided with a lock mechanism, making it accessible only to 
authorized persons who possess the right key. In a few Amer- 
ican cities, the box is left latched but unlocked, so that citizens 
may use the telephone in reporting an alarm to the central 
station. Accessibility by the public to police equipment, how- 
ever, has marked disadvantages, and the best American or- 
ganizations look upon it with some disfavor. In this country, 
besides, the great number of private telephones in use has al- 
most eliminated any necessity for making the beat telephone 
accessible to the general public. In almost all European coun- 
tries, on the contrary, where somewhat different conditions 
prevail, public use of the police field telephone is considered 
one of the primary purposes of its installation. 

There are also special types of police call boxes, equipped, 
in addition to a telephone connection, with various signaling 
devices for the use of patrolmen and, in some types, for the 
public as well. One unit designed for this purpose combines 

The Police Beat and Its Equipment 81 

the telephone and the automatic telegraph, thus providing fa- 
cilities whereby a patrolman may send to headquarters three 
or more distinct calls a duty report call, an emergency call 
for the police patrol conveyance, an emergency call for the 
police ambulance; a telephone call; and such other calls as 
may be dictated by the local plan of operation. A selecting 
device on the instrument enables the sender to transmit the 
appropriate call. There is a preference for the use of the tele- 
phone exclusively, since, besides other advantages, conversa- 
tion permits the transmission of calls with as much dispatch 
as with automatic telegraph equipment, and identifies the 
sender, besides. 

Once exclusive use of the telephone has been secured, no 
particular addition to terminal equipment at the station is 
required, all beat telephone lines coming in to the telephone 
switchboard, where calls are received in much the same man- 
ner as those on other extension telephone lines to offices in 
the same building. In most of the automatic telegraph in- 
stallations, terminal apparatus includes automatic recording 
equipment, which makes a permanent record of the time, 
place, and nature of the call transmitted from the beat. It is 
asserted that this arrangement has the advantage of record- 
ing a signal which may be used later in court, or for other 
purposes, but experience shows that few departments have 
had occasion to make use of such records and that therefore 
the additional expense involved is hardly justified. Undoubt- 
edly there is, and will continue to be, a limited field for this 
type of apparatus in police service. Many banks, theaters, 
stores, and other mercantile establishments desiring a secret 
and efficient means of registering an alarm at police head- 
quarters, have installed such equipment for their own pro- 


There is as yet no scientific basis for the location and distribu- 
tion of police-beat telephones in American cities, nor is there 
any evidence to indicate that foreign countries have applied 
definite principles to the problem. This confused situation 

82 Police Communication Systems 

exists in spite of the fact that a blind distribution of tele- 
phone units on the beat may defeat the purposes of the in- 
stallation. The policy in most departments has been to install 
telephones at approximately equidistant points throughout 
the beat. Usually, where equipment is available, boxes are 
placed at about half-mile intervals, without regard for fac- 
tors which, if properly considered, would materially alter the 
plan of distribution. 

In considering the prospective location and distribution of 
this equipment, the executive should not only have a general 
idea of the needs of the different beats, but also should corre- 
late these needs with the particular requirements of the en- 
tire area served by the department ; it may easily turn out 
that an equitable distribution of telephones will make pos- 
sible an advantageous realignment of beat boundaries. Fur- 
ther, the crime records in the entire area should be classified 
according to the various offenses recorded. This study should 
cover a period of not less than five years, and the data per- 
taining to the respective beats should be noted in order to 
discover those areas which seem to be the greatest potential 
sources of lawlessness. Spot maps showing the concentration 
of the different classes of crime are of material assistance in 
such a study, as are statistical charts and diagrams portray- 
ing variations in existing beat boundaries as between patrol 
shifts ; offenses and arrests by beats ; offenses per square mile 
per thousand population ; comparative relationship between 
density of offenses and arrests, and the relative size of beats ; 
variation of offense and arrest density as between patrol shifts. 
Other factors may demand consideration at this preliminary 
stage of the plan, but an analysis of the beat origin of offenses 
reported to the department for a period of five years will pro- 
vide a fairly accurate index for at least the preliminary plan 
for a general division of equipment. 

After a fair apportionment of equipment has been made 
for the individual beat areas, there should be determined 
those points on the beat where telephone installations would 
be of the greatest strategic value. Ingenuity as well as judg- 

The Police Beat and Its Equipment 83 

ment is necessary here, and again the geographic origin of 
offenses is significant. We are now concerned with the dis- 
tribution of offenses within the beat, in order that adequate 
equipment may be provided in those particular parts of the 
area where crime is a chronic condition, or where potential 
emergencies are indicated. Special watch must be kept con- 
stantly for police hazards. There may be within the boundaries 
of the beat potentialities for riots, rendezvous for criminals 
and prostitutes, low-rent areas, concentration of foreign ele- 
ments, restricted sections for colored people, and districts in- 
habited by the transient or migratory class. A study of such 
hazards should supplement the analysis of crime origin, al- 
though it will in general be found that the two are parallel. 

Cognizance should also be taken of county and state high- 
ways and of other important arterials that may traverse the 
beat, of shipping docks, ferry landings, and stations of inter- 
urban and longer railway lines. Residential sections of par- 
ticular interest to the burglar, theaters, banks, jewelry stores, 
exclusive mercantile establishments, apartment houses, and 
hotels must be noted. In fact, all those elements which enter 
into the definition and construction of a police beat influence 
also the location and distribution within the beat of the police 
telephones. Near boundary lines, telephones may be placed at 
the conjunction of two beats, making them available to two 
patrolmen. Accessibility is another important factor to be 
taken into account. A sufficient number of instruments should 
be maintained to make it unnecessary for the officer on patrol 
to extend his beat solely for the purpose of making a tele- 
phone call. 

Experience has proved that the number of signal boxes in 
any one area should depend upon the requirements for proper 
control of patrol operations and of the time response when 
calling officers in an emergency; on beats in congested dis- 
tricts, the call boxes must be closer together than in districts 
where much larger beats are practical. Likewise, the urgency 
for reaching an officer will, as a rule, be greater and arise 
more frequently in the more congested districts. 

84 Police Communication Systems 

With the foregoing in mind, and in order that the elements 
involved in planning the density of telephone distribution 
may be more readily understood, arbitrary time-response 
elements can be used as a guide in determining relative dis- 
tances. In the congested business areas the time element 
might be two minutes ; in areas somewhat less congested, three 
minutes ; and in the rest of the precinct or community it 
should not exceed four minutes. 

Each time element is the measure of distance that a man 
can walk within the time indicated. A patrolman on duty will 
average about 80 steps a minute ; each pace will cover about 
26 inches, a total of 173 feet a minute. When answering a call, 
he should be able to increase his pace to 110 or 120 steps a 
minute with an average of 30 inches to each step. At this rate, 
using the smaller of the two values, he will cover 275 feet 
a minute. The last-mentioned "distance per minute" is the 
measure to be used. 

The time-response elements employed should not, however, 
be the maximum time in which any call box can be answered. 
The time value used should be the average time required by 
several men in answering calls. When a number of men are 
called, it will be found that the answers to a general call will 
be spread out over a period of time greater than that esti- 
mated, and that the average time of all the men called will be 
very close to what it should be, since at any given instant the 
distance to be covered by each man in reaching a beat tele- 
phone will vary. The greatest distance that a patrolman has 
to walk in answering a call will be half the distance between 
two telephone boxes. Where there is a uniform distribution of 
telephones in a relatively large area, this halfway point may 
be equidistant from as many as four telephones. 

To determine the actual distance between beat telephones 
for any given time response, it is first necessary to convert 
into feet of travel the distance that patrolmen will cover in 
the time allowed. This value will be half the total distance 
between boxes. However, if the unit of time response used is 
to be considered as an average, an addition must be included 

The Police Beat and Its Equipment 85 

to offset the answering calls that will come in under the set 
time allowance. An increase not exceeding one-third of the 
total given will be sufficient for this purpose. 

For a two-minute time response, the total distance between 
beat telephone boxes will therefore be 1466 feet ; for a three- 
minute time response, the distance between boxes will be 
2200 feet; and for a four-minute time response, 4000 feet. 
Such an extreme distance as 4000 feet is not of much practi- 
cal value except where existing conditions make it unneces- 
sary to place boxes closer together. For example, this spacing 
can be used in the outskirts of a municipality, particularly 
where motorized patrol is employed. 

The foregoing calculations are of course more or less arbi- 
trary and, when used in actually planning a beat-telephone 
installation, will be found more or less difficult to reconcile 
with the actual distances between street intersections. If, 
however, the figures suggested are used as maximum units of 
distance, there should be no difficulty in planning a layout. 

It must also be remembered that the effectiveness of each 
call-box location is determined to a large degree by its rela- 
tionship to the surrounding call boxes. In other words, each 
beat telephone becomes the center of a surrounding group of 
telephones. On some beats it may be necessary to eliminate or 
relocate a telephone at an otherwise desirable point, because 
of this relationship. Attention must also be given to the loca- 
tion of telephone boxes on the borderline between beats, in 
order to permit of maximum usage of the equipment at those 
points. Box locations should, as a rule, be made on or near the 
corners of intersecting streets, for the equipment is thus made 
available in both directions on each of two streets. 

To determine approximately the number of beat telephones 
that may be required in a given police area, the following 
simple rule can be used, provided the total street mileage 
within the limits of the district is known. If the community 
or district requires a telephone distribution of varying den- 
sity, as is the general rule, the intermediate time response of 
three minutes can be used. This element in terms of feet gives 

86 Police Communication Systems 

an average distance between telephones of 2200 feet. Inas- 
much as each box is, on the average, available in both direc- 
tions on each of two streets, the approximate number required 
will be one-fourth of the street mileage divided by 2200. If 
the density of box distribution is to be uniform throughout 
the area, this result must be increased by about one-fifth. 
Street mileage traversing undeveloped areas may be elimi- 
nated. This result must be tempered by considerations 
previously discussed, since cognizance is to be taken of the 
concentration of crime in various sections, as indicated by the 
geographic origin of offenses and a survey of potential emer- 
gencies. Only by mapping out the territory in question, 
plotting the emergencies that may arise therein, and planning 
the shortest and fastest concentration possible, can an effi- 
cient and economical distribution of beat telephone equip- 
ment be made. 

Experience has demonstrated that the usual police depart- 
ment, large or small, can profitably apply this plan at five- 
year intervals to existing beat-telephone facilities so as to 
determine whether or not the present location and distribu- 
tion of equipment is economical and effective and what 
changes, if any, should be made to increase patrol efficiency. 
There are many examples of beats, formerly star contributors 
to the sum total of a city's crime, that have drifted suddenly 
into the doldrums of criminal inactivity and become peaceful 
and respectable neighborhoods. On the contrary, some quiet 
business section may become a huge manufacturing area. 
From a once quiet, rather out-of-the-way place, another will 
be converted into a "roaring third." Our social life and organ- 
ization is in a constant state of flux. Changing population 
density and nationality, shifting business areas, changes in 
the character of suburban residential districts, the appear- 
ance of new hotels, banks, theaters, jewelry stores and other 
mercantile establishments, may, in the course of a five-year 
interval, make the communication facilities of one beat obso- 
lete and inadequate, while other beats may have become over- 

The Police Beat and Its Equipment 87 

The growing motorization of police service introduces a 
new element into the problem of distribution. Recent police 
surveys indicate that approximately nine-tenths of all police 
departments in the United States now make use of the motor 
vehicle to a greater or less degree. 3 If the area is to be pa- 
trolled exclusively by automobile, it is possible to maintain 
the two-, three-, and four-minute time-response intervals with 
box distances of 4693 feet, 7040 feet, and 9386 feet, respec- 
tively, assuming an average speed of 20 miles an hour in 
answering the call. However, experience is proving that the 
remarkable efficiency of the automobile in beat patrol work 
is increased as the density of telephone boxes approaches the 
standard density set for foot patrolmen. 

The actual installation of beat telephone units may be done 
under the supervision of the company that supplies the equip- 
ment. Often, the municipal electrician, who is usually fully 
competent to do it, may make the installation. Irrespective of 
the type of unit employed, an independent pair of wires must 
connect each telephone to the station terminal equipment; 
otherwise, where a number of units are connected on the same 
circuit, one telephone out of order means that all telephones 
on the circuit are disabled, occasionally paralyzing communi- 
cation over an entire beat. The so-called series plan of wiring 
police-box telephones is being rapidly superseded by installa- 
tions in which each telephone may become defective without 
affecting the rest of the equipment. There is also the addi- 
tional advantage that the source of the line trouble is more 
easily found. 

The telephone units may be mounted on individual metal 
standards anchored in a concrete foundation, or, if a less ex- 
pensive installation is desirable, they may be mounted on or 
against any permanent or stationary object, such as a brick 
wall or telephone pole. In many cities, police boxes and fire 
boxes are mounted on a common standard, but the advisa- 
bility of this arrangement, except in special situations, is 

3 Study of 480 cities of more than 5000 population in the United States 
made by the author. 

88 Police Communication Systems 

open to some question, since the distribution of fire boxes may 
not coincide with the plan worked out for the location and 
distribution of the police equipment. All fire hazards are po- 
lice hazards, but the converse is not exactly true, and it is 
probable that there would be a conflict in the arrangements 
if an attempt were made to locate the police equipment to the 
best advantage. 

The housing box varies in dimensions within a small range, 
usually being approximately 12 inches wide, 16 inches long, 
and from 8 to 10 inches deep. In order to expedite the work 

Beat telephone equipment. Box can be mounted at any 
convenient location. 

of the patrolman, some departments are giving attention to 
the design of the telephone unit and its housing. The so-called 
hand-set telephone unit is proving its worth as the instrument 
best suited for this type of work, since it affords a greater 
freedom of movement at the telephone and gives the officer a 
better opportunity to take in writing such notes and informa- 
tion as may be necessary. Furthermore, there may be installed 
within the structure a small folding shelf or platform which 
comes to rest in the writing position when the door is opened. 
To facilitate writing at the telephone in the nighttime, a small 
electric bulb may be placed at a convenient point inside the 

The Police Beat and Its Equipment 89 

box, with contacts and circuit arranged so that it is in opera- 
tion only during the time that the door is open. 

The problem of how and where to install the beat telephone, 
however, is not a new one, and old solutions are still in vogue 
today. The patrol booth, for example, is an adaptation of the 
fixed post in military tactics and strategy. The fixed post is to 
be found in the patrol plan of the earliest European police 
departments, where, because permanence was desired for it, 
it became a more elaborate structure than would have been 
feasible for military purposes. Its introduction into the 
United States followed as a matter of course. 

In modern times the booth still holds an important position 
in the decentralization plan of some European police systems, 
although in some places its use and operation has been modi- 
fied to meet changed conditions. In England, Chief Constable 
Crawley of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, on January 29, 1928, pre- 
sented a report in which he outlined a plan of reorganization 
based upon the use of the patrol booth as the center of com- 
munication and activities on each beat, supplemented by the 
installation of telephone boxes (i.e., booths) at half-mile in- 
tervals throughout the area. 

These telephone boxes or booths situated at strategic points 
throughout the area were, in fact, miniature police stations. 
They afforded temporary shelter for two or more persons, had 
limited cell accommodations, and were equipped with tele- 
phone connections direct to the station which controlled their 
activities. Crawley modified the fixed-post system and out- 
lined a plan of patrol similar in many respects to the best 
American practice. The present London metropolitan beat 
telephone system also makes use of patrol booths, but differs 
from the system developed by Crawley in two important re- 
spects : it provides for not more than one telephone booth on 
each beat ; and the booth is a fixed post in the true sense of the 
phrase, as an officer remains on duty constantly at each booth. 
He is charged with the immediate supervision of the consta- 
bles who actually patrol the area. In this system, the patrol 
booth is a veritable police substation, equipped with telephone, 

90 Police Communication Systems 

stool, small cupboard, desk and drawer, box diary, first-aid 
outfit, fire extinguisher, electric heater, brush, duster, break- 
down card, portfolio for miscellaneous circulation, forms for 
dealing with or describing property lost or found, and miss- 
ing persons, and other police record forms. Encouragement is 
given to the use of the booth telephone by the general public, 
the instrument being made accessible to them upon their 
opening a small, unfastened, cupboard-like door. 

The conditions that indicate the use of the patrol booth 
abroad are somewhat different in this country, and American 
police departments that adopted the booth system have long 
since left it by the wayside. There are still, however, some 
persons who believe that this type of equipment, under cer- 
tain conditions, can be used effectively in modern patrol 
operations. As late as 1918, the Detroit Police Department 
decided, after an experimental installation, to erect thirteen 
additional patrol booths. The problems which confronted De- 
troit were common to most large cities. By 1918 the total area 
of the community had expanded to 80.86 square miles. Be- 
cause of the unprecedented growth of the city, together with 
the annexation of new territory, the department faced the 
serious problem of providing adequate police protection for 
all the newly acquired, outlying districts. Obviously, in such 
areas the beats would have to be exceedingly large or the cost 
of patrolling them would be more than the city could afford 
to pay. The chief need was decided to be an arrangement by 
which a policeman could be called quickly in an emergency, 
and the solution found was the patrol booth. 

The booths were centrally located in outlying districts, and 
were supplied with telephone facilities for both police and 
public use, and connected by direct telephone wire to the sta- 
tion. A policeman equipped with a motorcycle or automobile 
was assigned to each booth on a fixed post, and another officer 
was detailed to each booth but patrolled between this fixed 
post and the next booth in adjacent territory. This procedure 
permitted the patrolmen to work in relays, there being at all 
times one officer on patrol and a man at the booth. 

The Police Beat and Its Equipment 91 

The booth system appeared to give rather promising results 
both in Detroit and in New York, where Colonel Woods had, 
prior to this time, supervised a similar installation and found 
it well adapted to the needs of suburban districts. It was 
asserted that the time required for a patrolman to reach cer- 
tain points had been reduced from forty-five minutes to from 
six to eight minutes. 

Whatever may have been the value of the patrol booth in 
meeting police requirements in noncongested residential dis- 
tricts, the expanding use of communication on the beat has 
eliminated it as a fixture in American police service, and with 
it has gone the old fixed post. The booth system was based 
upon the availability of police strength in the immediate vi- 
cinity of each booth and it attained that end by the detailing 
of men to fixed posts where they would be available on call. It 
represented but a slight advance upon the old reserve system 
in which a body of men was kept in readiness at headquarters 
for emergency calls. In fact, it was the old reserve system 
under another name, for it involved the retirement of a cer- 
tain percentage of the force from active beat patrol work, and 
a corresponding impairment of the crime-preventive func- 
tion of the police. In the smaller communities, the recall and 
beat telephone systems together are answering the problem of 
availability and at the same time are permitting the officer to 
patrol his beat as a crime deterrent. In cities where there is 
radio control of the patrol force, there is of course no problem 
of availability. 

With modern beat telephone equipment, the patrolling of 
the beat can be varied and improved upon in a number of 
ways, and a greater amount of protection thus secured. By 
properly arranging the schedule of boxes to be pulled and the 
time limit allowed for pulling each box, a definite patrol plan 
can be developed that will ensure the patrolman's reaching all 
parts of his beat as frequently as the size of the beat and his 
period of service allow. The patrolman on the smaller beat 
will naturally be able to cover his territory more frequently. 
The important point is to arrange the schedule so as to meet 

92 Police Communication Systems 

the requirements of each individual beat so far as the general 
plan of operation will permit. 

With respect to beat telephone density, a number of alter- 
nate schedules should be possible for each beat. There is a 
natural tendency for anyone repeatedly traveling- between 
two points to follow a definite route with more or less con- 
sistency until it becomes a habit. Patrolmen so frequently 
acquire this habit that criminals are often able to time their 
operations so that the possibility of detection is greatly less- 
ened. The English place great emphasis on the element of sur- 
prise in patrol operations. In both London and Newcastle- 
upon-Tyne the reporting-in time schedules are changed at 
frequent intervals and officers are instructed to avoid regular 
routes of travel in touring their beats. Every effort is made 
to mislead the public so far as their movements are concerned. 
In this respect, American patrol practice may be improved. 

The ringing-in schedule of patrolmen should be rigidly ob- 
served, although it is generally understood that police duty 
is not to be neglected in order to conform to the schedule. A 
variation of from five to ten minutes from the scheduled time 
of reporting can be tolerated if this does not happen repeat- 
edly. Where the delay in reporting-in exceeds thirty minutes, 
an immediate investigation should be started by the station 
commanding officer, since the officer concerned may be badly 
in need of some sort of assistance. At the station, a regular 
record form is kept on which beat telephone calls are re- 
corded, indicating as a rule the name of the officer calling, the 
number of the call box used, and the time of the call. The 
operator has a list of all call boxes with their corresponding 
locations, so that when necessary this information may be re- 
ferred to without delay. 

The beat telephone has hardly begun to demonstrate its 
possibilities in police work. Careful study of its flexibility as 
a means of communication between the beat and the station 
will undoubtedly discover new uses, and future improvements 
in patrol service will be contingent, in large measure, upon 
such developments. 

The Police Beat and Its Equipment 93 

Estimates covering the cost of beat telephone apparatus 
and its maintenance may be obtained by police authorities 
from the companies distributing this type of equipment. 
Where the equipment is installed by the local telephone com- 
pany, it is usually supplied and maintained by the company 
at rates applying to the ordinary off-premises extension serv- 
ice, plus an additional rental for the special equipment. This 
rental is usually calculated on a mileage basis. Where cities 
own and operate their own apparatus, the sets may be bought 
outright. The cost of privately owned and maintained beat 
telephone equipment varies with different localities, depend- 
ing upon the initial cost of the equipment and the cost of 
installation and maintenance. In a number of cities, the ar- 
rangement described above has been found most economical, 
that is, where the telephone lines and instruments are rented 
from local telephone companies and maintained by them. 
Communication engineers associated with these companies 
are always available for consultation. 


The modern recall system is aptly illustrated by the Jersey 
City installation. To aid in the spreading of alarms in the 
event of the commission of a major offense, or in the speedy 
mobilization of the department in an emergency, each pre- 
cinct in the city is equipped with red-light alarm signals, 
installed by electricians of the department. These signal de- 
vices are strategically placed and are immediately visible to 
every policeman in the vicinity, whether on or off duty, all 
members of the department being required to answer the 
silent but peremptory summons by communicating with the 
precinct by call box or private telephone. Following the com- 
pletion of the system, the then Director of Public Safety 
Quinn said : "I consider [it] one of the most valuable ad- 
juncts to the mechanical contrivances in use to prevent and 
detect crime." To make the system yet more nearly complete, 
Jersey City has created an emergency battalion, properly 
equipped and capable of coping with any situation that may 

94 Police Communication Systems 

arise, such as large conflagrations, riots, and other emer- 

All recall or signaling systems consist essentially of a cen- 
trally located control or transmiting mechanism from which 
electrical circuit lines radiate to designated points in the area 
served, actuating audible or visual signal devices capable of 
attracting the attention of officers in the field. The system 
may comprise elaborate control apparatus capable of pro- 
viding automatically fifty or more different code-signal com- 
binations, or it may consist of a simple switch operated by 
the local telephone operator in a small community where a 
lone patrolman goes on his appointed rounds. Fundamen- 
tally, the recall signal is a visual or audible notification to the 
patrol officer to telephone his station for instructions. 

With the variety of electrical equipment now available, it 
is a simple matter to devise a signal code sufficiently flexible 
to meet all ordinary situations in indicating what officer or 
groups of officers should communicate with the station. The 
accompanying list of code combinations in use by one depart- 
ment illustrates the possibilities in this direction : 


Steady light All officers (emergency signal). 

Steady alternated with 2 . . Cover bridges as instructed by precinct 


8 Special details. 

21 Sergeant in district. 

23 Captain or lieutenant. 

24 Prowl or shotgun squad. 

25 Patrol wagon and ambulance (while out on 


26 Open for special signal as desired. 

3 Plain-clothes division (vice squad). 

31 All inspectors. 

32 Auto-theft division. 

34 Crime-prevention officers. 

4 All traffic officers. 

41 All foot-traffic officers. 

42 All motorcycle-traffic officers. 

5 Chief or assistant. 

The Police Beat and Its Equipment 95 

In addition, different and specific signals are assigned to the 
individual beat patrolmen, so that these members of the pa- 
trol force may be available for immediate service in matters 
which involve only a particular beat. Signals will flash thus : 
23 will flash ** *** ** *** ; 31 will flash *** * *** * ; 4 will 
flash **** **** ****. Signals are always repeated until an- 

When a certain patrolman is wanted, a signal correspond- 
ing to his beat or call number is transmitted over the circuit 
which controls recall-signal devices in his district. In re- 
sponse, the officer hastens to the nearest call box, and calls 
his station. He answers to no other signal except the emer- 
gency call for all officers, and no other officer responds to this 
officer's number. 

In emergency situations, when it is desirable or necessary 
to disseminate orders and information to all members of the 
force on duty, a general call signal is sent out over all circuits, 
thus operating recall equipment in every section of the city. 
To this general emergency call all officers respond, and as 
they answer by telephone over the various police-box circuits, 
the necessary instructions are given them. This call may be 
made more effective, as in Jersey City, by requiring that all 
off-duty officers who happen to observe the emergency signal 
must report to their station from the nearest telephone. In 
such circumstances it frequently happens that two or more 
officers may report in at approximately the same time, and it 
is then possible to give the information to all of them simul- 
taneously. There are also occasions when a call for police 
assistance or investigation may involve two or more beats, or 
perhaps a section of the city, to the exclusion of the others, 
and circuit controls can be arranged so as to operate signals 
only in the area affected. 


Practically speaking, the production of a satisfactory signal 
on the beat which will attract the attention of the officer on 
patrol is limited to those devices which give an audible or 

96 Police Communication Systems 

visual signal. Experimental work is now being conducted on 
the possibilities of the use of infrared light in police signal- 
ing, because it seems to promise secrecy and other advantages 
of such transmission. At the present stage of development, 
the reception of this type of signal by the officer would require 
a specially designed detector, somewhat similar to the con- 
ventional radio receiver. Successful adaptation of invisible 
light for use in alarm systems suggests that further experi- 
mental work in this direction may produce a practical device 
for field signaling purposes. 

For several reasons the audible signal has been in large part 
supplanted in modern police service by the visual, or light- 
signal devices. Aside from the fact that the human ear is in- 
sensible to sound frequencies below 8 or above 32,000 a second, 
the penetrating power of sound waves is very definitely lim- 
ited in its transmission by both acoustical and meteorological 
factors. Presence of large objects, such as buildings, obstructs 
the normal advance of sound waves ; atmospheric conditions, 
wind velocity, temperature variations, and other similar fac- 
tors raise or depress the audible horizon of a given source of 
sound, and thus lessen the dependability of the sound-signal 
device. Further, in accordance with the law that sound inten- 
sity varies inversely as the square of the distance from its 
source, the sound signal that would be effective as a patrol 
recall device would also most undesirably arrest the attention 
of everyone else in the area ; yet if it were of less intensity, so 
as to require the officer to remain within earshot, this neces- 
sity would greatly hamper free patrol movement. If the offi- 
cer patrols his beat properly, experience shows that he is 
usually out of range of communication by ear when emer- 
gency arises. Modern police departments are therefore de- 
pending more and more upon the light signal as a solution of 
the recall problem, since it is silent in operation and capable 
of efficient transmission over any ordinary distance. 

Both experiment and experience dictate the use of red as 
the color of the light signal. Study has been made of the rela- 
tive effectiveness of various colored lights in signaling by the 

The Police Beat and Its Equipment 97 

United States Bureau of Lighthouses, in an attempt to use 
other colors, but none was so effective as red. It has been 
found that, in order to produce some other color which at the 
proper distance could be identified unmistakably, the inten- 
sity of the beam would be feeble in comparison to the light 
source employed. For instance, in order to produce a violet 
distinctive from red on the one hand and from blue on the 
other, the necessary density of the color screen cuts down the 
beam candlepower to not more than one-tenth of that ob- 
tained with white light. White light is unsuitable for police 
signaling purposes because it is easily confused with other 
light sources at night, and because it is so little visible by day. 
Green is fairly effective as a signal color, but loses most of its 
effectiveness under daylight conditions. Red is generally se- 
lected because of its high contrast and arresting power both 
by day and by night, when properly controlled. It is signifi- 
cant, in this connection, that red is employed as the "Stop" 
signal in most of the automatic traffic control systems. 

Given a suitable color in the design and installation of 
recall systems, there still remains the problem of visibility, 
the proper control of the light source. There is no intention or 
desire to illuminate any surface or surrounding object, all 
effort being bent toward increasing the visibility of the source 
of the emitted light; and in the recall light-signal unit, the 
object of vision is the light source itself. A horizontal light- 
distribution pattern is therefore desirable, with maximum 
distribution in four directions 45 degrees apart, since recall 
signal units are installed whenever possible at street intersec- 
tions so that they may be visible from the maximum number 
of directions. 

The refractor used for police signaling is known as the 
four-way or four-beam refractor. This concentrates the light 
not only in a beam which makes it visible from maximum dis- 
tances, but also further conserves the light so that the beams 
are concentrated up and down the intersecting streets in all 
four directions. With the lamp at normal focus within the 
refractor, a beam is produced which makes an angle of 75 

98 Police Communication Systems 

degrees with a vertical line drawn directly below the center 
of the unit. It is possible, however, to adjust the filament posi- 
tions vertically within the refractor so that five or more 
degrees may be added or subtracted from this spread ; this 
makes for maximum efficiency and coverage through field ad- 
justment when the installation is made. In the police signal 

Police recall-signal unit for mounting at street 

intersections. Note dark shade and shadow area 

for illumination contrast. 

refractor, the outer half of the unit is of ruby glass in order 
that a uniform red signal may be seen, day or night. Diffusion 
of light, as in street-lighting projects, is neither necessary nor 
desirable in the police-signal unit. Tests, supplemented by 
experience, have indicated that a 300-watt lamp mounted in 
this type of refractor unit will provide a uniformly efficient 
signal under all ordinary conditions. 

Although the unit described represents the standard recall- 
light signal in use by the more modern departments, im- 
provement is expected to follow the developments in scientific 
control of light sources. Some attention, for example, is being 

The Police Beat and Its Equipment 99 

given to the possibilities of a revolving unit, similar in prin- 
ciple to lighthouse apparatus, in which all the emitted light 
is concentrated in one direction through the use of the reflec- 
tor and lens. This of course materially increases the range 
and effectiveness of a given source of light. The approximate 
range of color light signals employing the reflector and lens 
is shown in the list of ratings used by railroad signal engi- 
neers : 




Approximate range 
of signal 




5,000 to 6,000 



4,000 to 5,000 



4,000 to 5,000 



2,500 to 3,500 



4,000 to 5,000 

Range as applied in the list of ratings is based on the use 
of a lens 8% inches in diameter, and is the distance on a 
tangent, in bright sunlight, at which the signals are clear 
and distinct to a person of normal eyesight. Such a unit, how- 
ever, involves the use of equipment in which the unit itself, 
or some part thereof, revolves a circumstance which has 
thus far prevented the design of practical apparatus for 
police signal purposes. Continued experiment will undoubt- 
edly make this revolving unit available for police use. 

In the location and distribution of recall signal units, visi- 
bility is of primary consideration. Because of the many vari- 
ables which affect the visual characteristics of these signals, 
it is difficult to set up an exact rule for their distribution. Vis- 
ual characteristics of the respective streets must be studied. 
At night the police signal is constantly competing with other 
strong sources of light, such as advertising signs, particularly 
in business areas. Obviously, the effect of these is to reduce 
the contrast and the arresting power of the recall signal. 
Standard street-lighting equipment is not necessarily a com- 
petitor. Minimum lighting intensities required to make streets 

100 Police Communication Systems 

by night essentially as safe and convenient as by day have 
been determined by illumination engineers and these data 
usually govern the installation of street lighting equipment 
in modern cities. Nevertheless, the strong sources of light 

Another police recall-signal unit: a span-wire suspension unit 
equipped with bowl refractor; refractor lowered. 

necessary for good illumination interfere, of course, with the 
visibility of the red-light signal. In order to minimize this 
difficulty, wherever it is practical to do so, the signal unit 
should be isolated at some distance from street lights. By day, 

The Police Beat and Its Equipment 101 

the situation is more serious. At noontime in most California 
cities, for example, the sun produces during midsummer fully 
10,000 foot-candles of light. To meet this competition, every 
advantage must be taken in the location of the light unit. Ac- 
tual experiments should be made on each beat under both 
nighttime and daylight conditions in order to determine the 
most practical distances over which a typical signal unit may 
be considered observable by the patrolman. Such a survey will 
reveal the existence of obstructions, such as trees and build- 
ings, which interfere with the line of vision. Occasionlly, jog- 
ging streets must be taken into account. 

Ordinarily, the unit described will be found to be effective 
under daylight conditions at a minimum distance of four 
average blocks in four directions, which means that signal 
units should be placed at approximately eight-block intervals. 
The existence of so many variables in problems of illumina- 
tion will cause this estimate to vary both ways to meet local 
conditions, the location of each light being a separate and in- 
dependent problem. In congested business areas where large 
buildings and other structures impede vision, signal-unit 
density will be somewhat greater than the foregoing figure, 
which is given only as an average distance. 

For best results, recall units are mounted at from twenty- 
five to thirty feet above the center of the street intersection. 
The higher the signal the greater the visibility, but with the 
greater use of the automobile in patrol work the effective 
height is restricted, as the visor and top of the car may ob- 
scure the signal for too great a distance. In most communities 
there are certain points strategically placed, such as build- 
ings, towers, and other structures, from which a signal would 
be visible over a comparatively great distance, thus permit- 
ting the patrolmen of two or more beats to see the light from 
any point in their respective districts. In Berkeley, Calif., 
the hills on the eastern outskirts of the city presented an op- 
portunity of this kind and the installation of a signal unit on 
an elevated point has given excellent results. In engineering 
the recall system, however, it should be remembered that it 

102 Police Communication Systems 

is not necessary that the patrolman be able to see a signal 
light from any given point on his beat. Since he is constantly 
moving about the area, either on foot or in an automobile, an 
approximate eight-block interval between units would bring 
a light into his line of vision in from one to two minutes. 
Where foot patrolmen are used exclusively on the beat in 
outlying districts, light-unit density may profitably be in- 
creased. In no circumstances should the interval of vision 
exceed two minutes. 

The old practice of mounting the recall-light unit on the 
call box so seriously obstructs the line of vision as to eliminate 
any usefulness that the unit might have when so placed. This 
type of installation is still found in some cities, but the best 
practice is to suspend the light with span lines over the center 
of the street intersection. This is both economical and con- 
venient, and permits of the unit's being lowered or drawn in 
for replacement of parts or for cleaning. 

The application of electricity to the uses of daily life has 
resulted in recent years in the manufacture of equipment spe- 
cifically designed by electrical engineers for the police-recall 
system. A complete electrical recall system is now available 
as an independent installation. A number of manufacturers, 
both here and abroad, combine the recall signal and telephone 
unit as one composite installation. In most of these instal- 
lations, the recall unit, consisting of a light, bell, or horn, 
or some variation of the semaphore method of signaling, is 
mounted directly on the telephone housing. 

Where conditions dictate the use of a sound signal, vibrat- 
ing or motor-driven horns are most serviceable, as they de- 
liver a very loud and penetrating note, which can be heard 
over comparatively great distances. Of all sound-signaling 
devices, however, the siren and large whistle are probably the 
most effective. This type of signal, however, except for the 
use of the siren on fire and police department vehicles, should 
be reserved for general city-wide alarms, as, for example, a 
major emergency or a disaster. 

The cost of recall installations varies with the type and 

The Police Beat and Its Equipment 103 

elaborateness of the equipment selected. For a paltry sum the 
small community might install a Mazda bulb at some high 
central point for signaling to the patrol force. Connected to a 
suitable push button or switch at the point where calls for 
police assistance come in, this inexpensive device would make 
possible a service out of all proportion to its cost. Other com- 
munities have installed light units at strategic points in an 
area where twenty-four-hour telephone service is provided, 
such as fire houses, bridges, pumping stations, telephone ex- 
changes, elevated railway stations, surface carbarns, and milk 
depots. To have a signal given in a designated district, one 
needs only to telephone the agency at the proper point and 
request that the signal be turned on. Such a system affords a 
very economical service, as it eliminates the necessity for a 
circuit network connecting the station control apparatus with 
the signal units. The cost of a standard recall system, however, 
is easily within the means of most police departments, and 
the purchase of standard equipment soon justifies its original 
cost in the greater effectiveness of the individual officer and 
of the department as a whole. 

The police department of Gleiidale, Calif., recently faced a 
situation common to a large number of cities in this country. 
This community covers an area of approximately 20 square 
miles and has a population of from 70,000 to 75,000. Until 
quite recently, the public telephones were the sole means of 
communication between the police station and outlying patrol 
forces. The police chief (John D. Fraser) obtained estimates 
covering a composite system of beat communication which 
combined the telephone and recall units. The figures ranged 
from $75,000 to $100,000 with an estimated annual mainten- 
ance cost of from $6000 to $8000, the usual amount with some 
composite systems. Such an expenditure would have been in 
the nature of an extravagance. Furthermore, a bond issue 
would have been required, and between the citizens who are 
always too indifferent to vote and those who are unalterably 
opposed to bond issues in general, the project would have been 

104 Police Communication Systems 

After thorough investigation and discussion, Chief Fraser 
finally purchased the Rae recall system, and entered into a 
contract with the local telephone company for telephone 
service, this service including* the installation of a PBX tele- 
phone switchboard at headquarters and thirty-six beat tele- 
phone units distributed throughout the city. The E/ae recall 
system, by means of which the station operator is able to flash 
a signal to any officer or group of officers on the beat, was in- 
stalled by the city electrician. The amount of current con- 
sumed is small, and the monthly maintenance cost is less than 
$25. The total cost of the combined installation, including 
the recall system and the iron boxes in which the telephones 
were placed, was less than $8500. The monthly rental for the 
switchboard and thirty-six telephones, based on the wire mile- 
age, was of course much less than the estimated monthly main- 
tenance cost of the composite system. 

Recent improvements in land wire transmission include the 
introduction of the multifold carrier current control system, 
which may influence future installations of beat telephone 
and recall equipment. This unique system of transmission is 
significant in that it utilizes existing wire networks of the 
power and telephone companies and eliminates the cost rep- 
resented by the purchase or lease of the land wire connec- 
tions ordinarily required. Through an independent carrier 
frequency imposed upon these commercial lines, communi- 
cation may be had with any desired point in the area so cov- 
ered. If a transmitting device generating a frequency of 2000 
cycles, for example, is coupled in a suitable manner to a 60- 
cycle network, 2000-cycle signals can be superimposed on the 
lower frequency without in any way causing interference 
with the 60-cycle current ; likewise, the lower frequency has 
no effect upon the 2000-cycle system. The 2000-cycle impulses 
of the carrier current travel out from the transmitter over the 
primary feeders, through the distributing transformers, to 
the secondary circuits and therefore throughout the commer- 
cial network. Transmission of signals is thus accomplished by 
the use of varied frequencies, relayed from the central trans- 

The Police Beat and Its Equipment 105 

mitter to the power or telephone lines. These frequencies affect 
properly tuned receiving sets, which are connected by means 
of an ordinary plug inserted in the commercial lighting or 
telephone circuit. When resonance is established between the 
transmitted frequency and the receiver, the receiver, in ac- 
cordance with its pre-fixed adjustment, rings a bell, lights a 
light, or performs some other operation. 

By means of this system, transmission may be made over 
lines which have failed because of grounds, broken or short 
circuits, or any of the usual troubles of the ordinary electric 
circuit. Tests have indicated that alarm signals may be radi- 
ated in various directions from a central point over distances 
of from 200 to 300 miles. Furthermore, by the separate gen- 
eration of two or more carrier frequencies, a number of differ- 
ent communications or signals may be transmitted over the 
same line simultaneously. The system accommodates voice 
transmission if carrier frequencies of from 60,000 to 100,000 
cycles are employed. 

The application of this new development to the beat com- 
munication system, particularly to the recall, must be obvi- 
ous. Recall lights with relays can be installed anywhere and 
in as great number as desired, the actual current for the lights 
being taken from the 110-volt 60-cycle circuit, and the con- 
trolled carrier frequency riding the same circuit operates the 
relay and causes the desired signal to flash. 

How to reach off-duty patrolmen in an emergency has al- 
ways been a serious problem. Even where officers have tele- 
phones in their homes, valuable time is lost in the cumbersome 
process of summoning them to the station by individual tele- 
phone calls. Through the facilities of the system here under 
discussion, the problem is reduced to its simplest terms. It is 
only necessary to connect a receiving element to a light socket 
in the home of each officer and the station may signal him at 
will. If he moves to another house or apartment, he takes 
the unit with him. There are no wires to transfer and the 
equipment is moved in much the same manner as the ordinary 
household radio receiver. 

106 Police Communication Systems 

With its adaptability to two-way voice communication, the 
multifold carrier current control system should find a ready 
application to the engineering problems of the beat telephone 
system. Elimination of the cost of land wire connections will 
liberate funds for the purchase of additional telephone units 
for installation on the beat. Thus far, public utility companies 
are said to be quite willing that their lines shall be used for 
police and fire-alarm purposes, since the transmission of mes- 
sages and signals does not interfere in any way with the 
normal services provided by their circuits. In individual in- 
stallations, it would of course be necessary to obtain the con- 
sent of the local company whose facilities it is desired to use. 

The discussion and data presented in this chapter enable us 
to reach the conclusion that beat communication equipment 
now available can give to any police organization installing it 
all the essential service required to meet present-day needs in 
police work, and further, that such equipment can be had at 
a cost well within the means of all municipalities, regardless 
of size. 


INTRODUCTION of the automobile into modern patrol 
service made mobilization a factual possibility. One of the 
major developments of the present decade in police service, 
the automobile patrol is rapidly displacing foot patrolmen in 
residential and semiresidential sections, and supplementing 
the work of foot patrolmen in business districts. One man in 
an automobile can do routine work as effectively as two or 
more foot patrolmen, and in emergencies he can do more than 
a dozen unmounted policemen. Virtual extinction of the "flat- 
foot" or foot patrolman is inevitable ; a 250-pound policeman 
walking his beat, equipped with a revolver but slightly im- 
proved over the model that subdued the West, can no longer 
be expected to cope successfully with criminals in fast motor 
cars and armed with modern weapons. 

The fundamental strategic value of the automobile was its 
conversion of a static patrol force into a mobile group, ca- 
pable of rapid movement from one point to another. The au- 
tomobile solved also a tactical problem : it increased very 
greatly the range and value of the individual patrolman. A 
second tactical problem, however, that of effectively conserv- 
ing the reserve strength of the department, was still in large 
part unsolved. The beat communication system with its tele- 
phones and recall signal lights was a step toward solution, 
but it limited the rapidity of mobilization a vital factor in 
the fighting strength of a combat unit. 

The limitations it imposed are best illustrated by data ob- 
tained from studies conducted in one police department to 
determine the actual time interval of response to recall-light 
signals. The results indicated that, under ideal conditions, 
contact may be established with the beat patrolman in an av- 
erage time of approximately 3 minutes and 57 seconds. The 
efficiency of the experimenting system was, however, far 
above the average for most police departments, and the values 


108 Police Communication Systems 

given accordingly represent the best performance obtainable 
with this equipment under actual operating conditions. Be- 
tween 8 :00 A.M. and 4 :00 P.M., the average time-response in- 
terval was 5 minutes, 3 seconds; between 4 :00 P.M. and 12 :00 
midnight, 3 minutes, 35 seconds ; and between 12 :00 midnight 
and 8 :00 A.M., 2 minutes, 57 seconds. These intervals were 
computed from the moment that the signal-control mechanism 
was set in motion at the station until the moment when the 
officer lifted the receiver from a beat telephone and reported 
in. Other lost time for example, the actual time consumed 
by the desk operator in conveying the message or informa- 
tion, and the time lost by the patrolman in getting in and out 
of his car is conservatively estimated at from one to two 
minutes, and further time is dissipated in other lost motions. 
In other words, from the moment the station is in possession 
of the report or information, a time interval averaging from 
4 to 7 minutes or more must pass before the officer is under 
way to the scene of the emergency. 

Under ordinary conditions, the offender finds in this pe- 
riod of free time his margin of safety ; within this time in- 
terval, he may escape to a comfortable seclusion four or five 
miles from the scene at the moment that the officer on the beat 
is receiving the report of the crime, and loss or destruction 
of valuable evidence and the disappearance of material wit- 
nesses are frequently results of this delay. The situation is 
further complicated by the addition of time employed by the 
patrolman in traversing the distance from the telephone on 
the beat to the scene of the disturbance. It is seldom that the 
officer happens to be in the near vicinity. 

The motorized patrol, although a mobile and flexible af- 
fair, had not yet (the reference is to the situation three para- 
graphs above) become sufficiently organized, nor and this 
was the critical difficulty had the problem of communica- 
tion been sufficiently mastered, to permit of its effective oper- 
ation as a unit. As a result, mobilization was too slow to be of 
much value in an emergency. But a new help was at hand. 

The radio, together with the automobile, was to usher in a 

The Police Radio System 109 

new era in the fight of the police to protect society. Its value 
in the solution of the problem was indicated by two of the 
physical characteristics of radio communication ; namely : 

(1) The energy emitted by a radio transmitter radiates to 
all points of the compass, and all receiving apparatus within 
range of the sending station can clearly receive its messages. 
Further, a message need be broadcast but the once, as it is 
received at one and the same time by all receiving stations 
within range. 

(2) Of equal importance was the fact that communication 
could be had with the mobile units over any distance. An au- 
tomobile, whether parked or moving at high speed, could in- 
tercept the message as well as the stationary receiver. Land 
wires were unnecessary : the ever-present ether was the trans- 
mitting medium. The only equipment needed was the sending 
and receiving terminals. 

Thus, through the instrumentality of radio, headquarters 
was provided with a means for rapid communication with the 
deployed mobile patrol units. The decentralized force could 
be called into action almost simultaneously with the receipt 
of the report at headquarters. The time interval of response 
was reduced to zero and the outlying patrols could be in- 
formed at once of any request for police assistance. Rapidity 
of operation became an accomplished fact. The patrolman 
could traverse his beat on patrol and yet be available in- 
stantly, at all times, for emergency calls. 

Most of the publicity that has been given to the police radio 
system deals with the spectacular split-second captures which 
it made possible, somewhat to the neglect of other points 
of value. Where radio communication is used, a fast, well- 
equipped fleet of cars is ready at any moment to deal with 
serious disturbances in any section of a city. There also fall 
to the lot of the police many routine duties which require, for 
their performance, men and cars. The radio patrol, while en- 
gaged in these activities, is always in possession of the latest 
information concerning stolen cars, holdup reports, descrip- 
tions of missing and wanted persons, and other crime inform- 
ation, and is always ready for emergency assignment. 

110 Police Communication Systems 


Describing results achieved through radio communication in 
patrol service, Commissioner Rutledge, of the Detroit Police 
Department, addressing the International Association of 
Chiefs of Police at its 1929 convention, said : "Snaring crim- 
inals in a radio network, woven by broadcasting to radio- 
equipped cars, has become a matter of seconds. Seconds are 
precious to the lawbreaker. They spell the difference between 
escape and capture. The wider the margin of time, the better 
his chances to escape apprehension. With the use of radio 
communication between headquarters and the patrol cars we 
are catching the criminal red-handed. We are eliminating the 
introduction of circumstantial evidence in trials by indisput- 
able proof of guilt. Economically, we are cutting down the 
cost of law enforcement ... by synchronizing the arrest with 
the depredation and eliminating the need for long and costly 
investigations. Instead of trailing behind in the dust of the 
criminal, we are as nearly abreast of him as it is humanly 
possible to be." 

The plan of operation in Detroit is typical of the present- 
day use of radio communication in police service. Information 
broadcast by the police transmitter is obtained from several 
sources and is of types which can be roughly classified as 
follows : 

(1) Euns. Orders to a police car to proceed to the scene of a crime, 
fire, or accident. The broadcasting of this type of information, generally 
known as a "run," is given precedence over all other broadcasts. 

(2) Station calls. Cars are often wanted by the precinct station, or 
perhaps by the police radio dispatcher. They are told to go to their sta- 
tion, or are given any other information that is necessary. 

(3) Teletypes. The Detroit Police Department uses the teletype sys- 
tem 1 for the dissemination of information from headquarters to its pre- 
cinct stations. The radio station is equipped with one of these teletype 
machines, and teletype messages are broadcast by the operator. They 
contain information with respect to holdups, descriptions of men wanted 
by the police, reports of missing persons, and other information which 
is subject to broadcast. 

1 See Chapter VII, "The Police Teletype Network" (p. 242). 

The Police Radio System 111 

The transmitted information is obtained from two general 
sources : from citizens, by means of the commercial telephone 
system ; and from the precinct stations and the several divi- 
sions of the Police Department. Lines from all possible sources 
of information converge into one room, where are both the 
central switchboard of the department and the dispatchers. 
These dispatchers, two in number, are trained men with long 
experience in their work. They, and no others, dispatch the 
police cars on runs. One of them supervises cars on the east 
side of the city, and the other the movement of patrol cars on 
the west side. They have available at their fingertips all the re- 
sources of the entire department. Patrol wagons, ambulances, 
detective-bureau flyers, emergency wagons, and other fast 
services can be obtained quickly by means of the police tele- 
phone system, and the radio-equipped scout cars and cruisers 
patrolling the streets of the city between the two dispatchers. 
They merely plug in on a telephone line to the radio station 
and the transmitting equipment is automatically, and almost 
instantaneously, in operation for immediate broadcast. 2 

In Detroit, as in many other large cities, the radio-equipped 
patrol cars are distributed by precincts. The regular police 
precinct is further decentralized into what are termed radio 
patrol districts, and a radio car is assigned to patrol each dis- 
trict. When an emergency arises, the car is dispatched to the 
scene of trouble. Patrol districts are determined systemati- 
cally, with the following points in mind : (1) density of popu- 
lation; (2) the crime record of the particular territory; (3) 
the traffic problem density of traffic, congested points, im- 
pediments such as railroads and topographical and other ob- 
structions (obviously the traffic problem affects the speed of 
police cars and therefore the time required to respond) ; and 
(4) other police protection. The radio cars used are of two 
types, scout cars and cruisers. The scout cars are light ma- 
chines. They are manned by two uniformed policemen and are 
assigned to definite patrol districts. The cruisers are heavy, 

2 See also "Communication System of the Los Angeles Police Depart- 
ment," in Chapter XII (p. 362). 

5 1 

jx * j 



i pi pQ 
-i o 


The Police Radio System 113 

high-powered cars, with bulletproof windshields. They carry 
four men, including two plain-clothes patrolmen, one driver 
in uniform, and one detective, and are equipped with riot 
guns, tear-gas bombs, and other emergency weapons. A cruiser 
patrols an entire precinct, covering territory assigned to pa- 
trol-district cars ; thus, in the event of serious trouble, the two 
policemen in the scout car are supplemented by the cruiser 
crew. 3 

An incoming call for police assistance is routed into the 
main dispatching room. The operator receiving the call turns 
the information over to the police dispatcher. The latter as- 
certains from which precinct and district the call originates, 
then plugs in on the radio station and speaks into the micro- 
phone, giving the car number and a brief account of the re- 
port. As his voice goes out on the air, it is also audible to the 
operator at the radio station, who writes the message down 
and then signals the dispatcher, thus signifying that he has 
understood the message and that transmission has been ac- 
complished. The radio operator listens to a loud-speaker which 
affords reproduction similar to that in the cars. After he has 
signaled the dispatcher, he switches connections to the micro- 
phone at the station and repeats the call in order to lessen the 
possibility that the car may fail to receive the broadcast. 

The crew of the car designated in the broadcast, upon hear- 
ing its number called, listens to the immediately succeeding 
description of the "run," goes to the scene, and takes care of 
the trouble. As soon as the run is completed, the crew calls 
the radio station and reports back in service. Officers are in- 
structed to call back at the earliest possible moment. Should 
the radio operator fail to hear from them within a reasonable 
time, another car is dispatched on the call. 


A radio message is a series of vibrations carried by wave 'mo- 
tions through the ether. Frequency, or wave length, is all- 
important to message-sending, for it is this characteristic of 
3 See Chapter V, "Radio Patrol Operation" (p. 157). 

114 Police Communication Systems 

radio transmission that permits the tuning or selection of the 
radiation of one station from that of another. Radio waves of 
a multitude of different frequencies are constantly crowding 
the ether. If it were not for strict adherence to the assigned 
frequency and the fact that each transmitted wave keeps its 
own frequency as it travels away from the sending station, 
without regard for other waves passing through space, radio 
communication could hardly be the practical matter that it is. 

When a voice-transmitting station goes on the air, a carrier 
wave and two side bands are radiated from the antenna sys- 
tem. Although 60 per cent of the total power transmitted is 
in the carrier wave proper, it does not of itself carry the 
modulations. The side bands transport the speech and require 
a total width for a single broadcast channel of approximately 
10 kilocycles. The fullest use of this crowded transmission 
medium requires the greatest possible constancy in the op- 
erating frequencies of radio transmitting stations. 

This matter is of such great importance that it has been 
made the subject of special regulation by the Federal Com- 
munications Commission. In Section 2 of General Order 119, 
the Commission specifies "that no transmitter will be per- 
mitted to operate unless the applicant can show that the car- 
rier frequency will be kept within 0.025 per cent of the as- 
signed frequency by automatic frequency control." Recent 
Federal regulations require an adherence to the assigned fre- 
quency of plus or minus 50 cycles per second. 

Because the number of frequency channels available for 
police operations is limited, the Commission has been com- 
pelled to regulate the power of individual police transmitting 
stations, in order to reduce interference and make possible a 
maximum number of police transmitters. The regulations are 
based upon the population of the area served. The maximum 
amount of power assigned for the use of stations is based on 
the latest Census Bureau population figures for cities or state 
subdivisions, as follows : population less than 100,000, 50 
watts ; 100,000 to 200,000, 100 watts ; 200,000 to 300,000, 150 
watts; 300,000 to 400,000, 200 watts ; 400,000 to 500,000, 250 

The Police Radio System 115 

watts ; 500,000 to 600,000, 300 watts ; 600,000 to 700,000, 400 
watts; more than 700,000, 500 watts. 

Supplementing its regulations, the Commission says : "In 
the event that the amount of power allocated is insufficient 
to afford reliable coverage over the desired service area, the 
Commission will, upon proper showing being made, author- 
ize the use of additional transmitters of duplicate power." 
Federal regulations require that in all circumstances except 
in the use of maritime distress signals, all radio stations, in- 
cluding those owned and operated by the United States, shall 
use the minimum power necessary to carry out the communi- 
cation desired, and shall not exceed the power assigned to the 

Since the power of a given police transmitter is fixed by 
specific Federal regulations, it is necessary to inquire con- 
cerning alternative means of transmission through which the 
service may be improved or the area covered, enlarged. There 
are several factors, more or less amenable to control, which 
if properly reckoned with will greatly aid transmission effi- 
ciency. Proper transmitter location is one of these. 

The major importance of location is based upon some rather 
fundamental characteristics of radio transmission, some of 
which should be mentioned. To radio transmission there are 
three principal obstacles : (1) interference from other trans- 
mitting stations ; (2) static ; and (3) fading of signal strength. 

Interference from other transmitters is controllable and can 
be eliminated if the equipment used is made to adhere strictly 
to a predetermined frequency. 

Static is the term applied to electrical disturbances that 
give rise to irregular, interfering noises heard in the receiving 
apparatus. Some sources of static are accessible to man, and 
others for example, lightning are beyond his reach and 
necessitate the use of special apparatus. However, the recent 
improvement in the design of receiving apparatus has greatly 
mitigated the effects of this form of interference, and it is now 
of comparatively little importance in police transmission. 

Fading or swinging of signal strength is an irregular or 

116 Police Communication Systems 

regular variation of the received signal, given a constant 
circuit adjustment of both transmitter and receiver. This phe- 
nomenon is more prevalent on short wave lengths, particu- 
larly those of less than 400 meters, and is therefore of the 
utmost importance to the police. Early experimenters in 
the field of police radio are familiar with this troublesome 
characteristic of radio transmission, and even today police 
departments equipped with the finest radio apparatus occa- 
sionally encounter a fading of signal strength in certain sec- 
tions of the area covered. 

In the phenomenon of fading, the signal of a transmitting 
station will be received with normal intensity for a few min- 
utes, and then for a brief interval the intensity will increase, 
and then it will so far decrease that the signal is too weak to 
be audible. Variations in signal strength may be very rapid, 
with a period of about one second, or very slow, with one-hour 
periods, and they usually occur where the transmission is over 
land areas. The causes of fading continue to be the subject of 
scientific investigation. Where fluctuations in the received sig- 
nal are the result of variations in the wave length or in the 
intensity of the transmitted wave, as often happens, the sit- 
uation is easily remedied by necessary adjustments at the 

Eecent improvements in transmitter design and the appli- 
cation of greater transmitter power have done much to elimi- 
nate fading, particularly in the popular broadcast field. In the 
police field, however, the situation is somewhat different, by 
reason of two peculiar conditions. First, police transmitters 
are under the extraordinary limitations in power imposed by 
Federal regulations ; the power of a police transmitting sta- 
tion may never exceed 500 watts. Second, a police receiving 
station is mobile, being installed in a patrol car that is con- 
stantly moving. The receiving apparatus is also subjected to 
many adverse conditions of interference peculiar to this type 
of installation, which will be discussed later. With these ob- 
stacles to be overcome, no possible advantage can be neglected. 

It is generally accepted that the wave radiated from an 

The Police Radio System 111 

ordinary antenna spreads out in a hemispherical form, ex- 
tending in every direction except into the earth. At a height 
of from 60 to 300 miles, this wave front reaches an ionized 
conducting region of the atmosphere known as the Kennelly- 
Heaviside layer, where it is reflected, somewhat as light is 
from a rather poor grade of mirror. A fading phenomenon 
known as phase distortion occurs when the wave reflected 
from the Heaviside layer reaches the receiving set simulta- 
neously with the arrival of the "ground wave," or that part 
of the impulse which travels along the earth's surface. It will 
be perceived that when these two waves are applied to the am- 
plifier tubes of the receiving set in the condition known as "in 
phase," an enormous increase in the signal strength will be 
apparent in the loud-speaker. Conversely, when the two waves 
are applied to the receiver 180 out of phase, the volume of 
the loud-speaker will be zero. The intermediate conditions as 
the waves drift in and out of phase depending upon the 
strength of each individual wave vary from zero to maxi- 
mum. Elimination of either increases the apparent signal 
strength of the other, with little or no evidence of fading. It is 
for this reason that the vertical-style radiator antenna, which 
reduces the strength of the reflected wave, with a correspond- 
ing increase in that of the ground wave, is strongly recom- 
mended in police transmitter installations. 

In radio transmission there is also encountered a phenom- 
enon known as the skip-distance effect, which, until it was 
well understood, was more or less of a stumbling block. At a 
frequency of 16,000 kilocycles or a wave length of about 18 
meters, the ground wave progresses outward only a few miles 
from the antenna when it is so seriously absorbed as to make 
reception difficult. The sky wave in the meantime mounts to 
the Heaviside layer, where it is reflected back to some point 
on the earth at a great distance away from the sending station. 
A simple study of the geometry of the situation will show that 
a wave leaving an antenna on the earth's surface and striking 
this reflector at an oblique angle about one hundred miles 
above the ground, must come down again in a remote region. 


Police Communication Systems 

The ideal transmitting antenna. 

The Police Radio System 119 

There is therefore a region between the transmitter and the 
down-coming sky wave in which the transmitter is not heard 
except for very feeble echo signals. This curious ability of the 
short wave to skip over certain points within a radius of from 
400 to 500 miles from the transmitter and yet be received with 
high efficiency by receivers 1000 to 2500 miles away, has a 
direct bearing on all radio transmission problems. In the early 
experiments with radio apparatus by the police in Berkeley, 
Calif., it occasionally happened that signals were booming 
away through the Panama Canal Zone which could not be 
heard at all in certain sections of the city. 

From the foregoing, it will be apparent that all police radio 
transmission systems must depend upon the ground wave for 
their operation, since the police broadcast radius is compara- 
tively short, usually less than seven miles if the transmitter 
is serving only the area comprising one large city. Frequently 
a centrally located transmitter serves police departments in 
two or more adjacent jurisdictions, but the service radius is 
seldom more than from fifteen to thirty or forty miles. Recep- 
tion within a radius of fifty miles from a transmitting station 
is usually through ground-wave energy. But the ground wave 
clings close to the surface of the earth in its path forward, 
and its energy dissipates rapidly, on account of the exceed- 
ingly high rate of energy absorption by objects on the earth's 
surface. Moisture, dust, and sunlight absorb radio-frequency 
energy. On land, large conducting objects, such as buildings, 
wires, trees, mountains, underground metallic deposits and 
other electrical obstructions sap the energy of the transmitted 
signal. Skyscrapers and other large structures projecting into 
the air have a short-circuiting effect on transmitted energy. 
A formula has been derived for the strength of signals over 
salt water in the daytime, and the observed and calculated 
values are nearly always in fair agreement. Over land, how- 
ever, observed values differ greatly from those calculated ac- 
cording to this formula, and vary greatly among themselves 
because of the difference in ground absorption in different 

120 Police Communication Systems 

If a copper wire ranging from 50 to 100 feet in length 
strung around the molding of a room can intercept sufficient 
energy from passing waves to produce sound which can be 
heard several hundred feet from a loud-speaker, it is not 
difficult to understand how absorption by trees, steel struc- 
tures, electric wires, and pipes, may dissipate the strength of 
high-frequency radiation. A mountain, hill, or other irregu- 
larity in the earth's surface casts a radio shadow analogous 
to optical diffraction, and in the shadow area signal strength 
is at a low ebb. It is to the screening effect of hills and tall 
buildings, and the other obstacles mentioned that the occur- 
ence of the familiar "dead spot" the enigma of all early ex- 
periments in police radio systems may be attributed. 


An expert study by a competent radio engineer, taking into 
account all the factors and conditions pertaining to radio 
transmission within the area involved, should invariably pre- 
cede the selection of the point at which the police transmitter 
is to be installed. It will require the attention of an expert 
technician, who has at his command the facilities of scientific 
laboratories and the sources of the latest engineering knowl- 
edge and information; the professional radio engineer has 
supplanted the "local genius," who played such an important 
and spectacular role in the early development of police radio 

The primary objective is to obtain satisfactory coverage at 
field strengths of sufficient intensity to produce good signals 
in a radio receiver mounted in an automobile, at any point 
within the policed territory. The most reliable and, in the long 
run, the most economical method of determining possible loca- 
tions for the station, is by making scientific measurements of 
field-signal strengths with apparatus that has been especially 
designed for this purpose. A portable transmitter of not less 
than 50 watts power and possessing high operating efficiency 
is usually employed, for which a special license is issued by 
the Federal Communications Commission. This transmitter 

The Police Radio System 121 

should also be capable of maintaining as nearly as possible an 
absolute frequency constant. The transmitter having been 
installed at one of several possible locations, the test car, 
equipped with suitable signal-intensity measuring instru- 
ments, moves about the area to be served. 

The strength of a radio-frequency field surrounding a 
transmitter in operation is defined in terms of "microvolts 
per meter." The field-strength measuring equipment is, in a 
sense, a radio receiver so designed as to give meter indications 
which can be resolved into microvolts-per-meter field inten- 
sity for each given location. With the portable transmitter 
rated at 50 watts output, the field-strength survey discloses 
the signal strength that prevails at given distances from the 
transmitter. The time of day and the season of the year are 
also noted, for, owing to natural causes, signal intensity may 
vary as between darkness and daylight and from season to 

Upon completion of tests with the transmitter in a sug- 
gested location, it is next in order to plot signal-strength 
curves for the entire area. Data obtained from the survey 
are reduced to graphic terms by the preparation of a field- 
strength map. This map is so drawn that its center represents 
the location of the transmitter during one series of tests. As 
a rule, field-strength measurements are made by circling the 
transmitter at various distances. Several stops are made on 
each circuit and the field-signal strength at those points is 
noted. In drawing the field-strength map, the readings at 
these points establish locations or points on the drawing which 
need only to be connected by drawing contour lines bisecting 
them. Similar tests and procedure are followed through for 
each possible location of the transmitter. From these results 
the engineer may determine : (1) the most favored location 
for maximum coverage of the entire area ; (2) the location of 
shadows, dead spots, and other fading areas which show a 
pronounced weakness of signal strength ; (3) the location and 
identification of local sources of interference; (4) the type of 
transmitting antenna system best adapted to the purpose; 

122 Police Communication Systems 

(5) the comparative signal variations by hour of day ; (6) the 
variations between day and night signal intensity; (7) the 
efficiency of the location for transmitter grounding purposes ; 
(8) the type and design of receiver best adapted to local con- 
ditions ; and (9) the minimum transmitter power output nec- 
essary to cover the area efficiently. 

From the field signal strength maps, department executives 
will be able to observe for themselves the results to be expected 
from the various locations. The radio-frequency input re- 
quirements of the automobile receiver being known, the effec- 
tiveness of each location tested can be determined by a glance 
at the map. From an engineer's point of view, the most desira- 
ble procedure is to select the transmitter location purely on 
the basis of the field-intensity survey. Where conditions are 
such that the most desirable location becomes unavailable, the 
purchaser will at least have, in advance, scientific evidence of 
the results that he may expect from the location selected. 

In general, the transmitter should be at a point where good 
"ground" conditions prevail. Such conditions may not be 
found where, for example, the surface and underlying de- 
posits are of volcanic origin, because of the natural noncon- 
ductivity of such material and its rapid drainage. Soil which 
has, 011 the contrary, a tendency to retain moisture, usually 
offers a good location so far as grounding requirements are 
concerned. It may develop, however, that natural or artificial 
shielding, absorbing, or reflecting objects may be interposed 
between what seems superficially to be a choice location and 
the area to be covered. Unfortunately, some municipalities 
are restricted to one or two possible locations. In such circum- 
stances, the ingenuity and skill of an experienced radio engi- 
neer may be relied upon to indicate the design and installation 
of an antenna system which possesses the necessary character- 
istics. Adverse natural grounding facilities, it may be, may 
dictate the construction of a counterpoise for this purpose. 

The most advantageous transmitter location as shown by 
the field-intensity survey might be at a point some distance 
from police headquarters, as in Los Angeles and a few other 

The Police Radio System 123 

cities where the radio communication equipment is several 
miles from headquarters. It is nevertheless desirable that the 
radio transmitter should be subject to control from the cen- 
tral police office. This can be accomplished by remote-control 

In general, it is advisable to lease circuits from the local 
telephone company. Two circuit groups are necessary, one 
for starting and transmitting equipment, and the other for 
speech-input purposes. As a rule, the remote start-stop equip- 
ment consists of either a push button or a key arrangement. 
When the starting circuit is closed, the effect is as if the start- 
ing button on the transmitter had been pressed. This is true 
because the remote starting circuit is connected across the 
local starting circuit built into the transmitter. The best of 
remote-control equipment is now available, making this prob- 
lem quite easy to solve. 

For remote-control operation it may be necessary to am- 
plify the signals between the microphone and the speech-input 
terminals of the radio transmitter, the amount of amplifica- 
tion depending upon the distance between the two points. The 
type of amplification can only be determined when the dis- 
tance and impedances are known. Broadly speaking, what 
this amplifier should do is build up the current passed by the 
speech-input terminals at the transmitter so as to produce 
virtually complete modulation. 

The field survey may reveal that one transmitter with its 
authorized power rating is incapable of covering the entire 
area effectively, particularly in the larger cities. The Federal 
Communications Commission has recognized this, and has in- 
dicated its willingness to authorize, where necessary, the use 
of additional transmitters of duplicate power and frequency. 
In an installation of two or more transmitters, separate field- 
intensity surveys will be helpful and perhaps even necessary 
in order to determine the best location for each piece of equip- 
ment. Transmitters are then usually operated as semi-inde- 
pendent units with remote-control lines wired direct to the 
central dispatching room at headquarters. Transmission sys- 

124 Police Communication Systems 

terns of this type are now in operation in Chicago, where three 
transmitters are in use, and in Greater New York, where five 
are used to cover a huge area. In some installations where a 
plurality of transmitters was to be employed, an attempt was 
made to synchronize their operation. The Commission, how- 
ever, considers this impracticable under present conditions 
and has not as yet approved any police request for permission 
to operate in this manner. 

In cities equipped with radio communication facilities, 
great reliance is placed upon them, and much is required of 
them. This circumstance tends to increase the dangers in- 
volved in interruption of service ; disabling of the transmitter, 
failure of power supply, damaged antenna system, or other 
causes which may temporarily throw the system out of serv- 
ice, place the patrol force at a serious disadvantage. A meas- 
ure of control remains possible through the beat telephone 
and recall systems, but the longer time-response interval pre- 
cludes the effective concentration in emergencies that has 
made the police radio indispensable. Adequate safeguards 
should therefore be provided to forestall such contingencies 
as far as possible ; and experience has shown that, with proper 
precautions, this hazard may be reduced to a minimum. 

When interruptions do occur, the immediate necessity of 
course is to make possible the resumption of operations with 
the least possible delay. A full supply of extra parts and 
equipment should be a first requirement in the inventory of 
every department using radio communication. Interruptions 
in service fall, as a rule, into three broad classes : (1) failure 
of power supply; (2) transmitter failure; and (3) faulty or 
damaged antenna system. 

The power supply in a radio transmission system repre- 
sents the source of electrical energy for driving its equipment, 
and any interruption of current or failure of power equip- 
ment results immediately in a complete shutdown in trans- 
mission. The various types of power-supplying equipment 
used in conjunction with vacuum-tube transmitters are the 
direct-current generator with suitable filters, alternating cur- 

The Police Radio System 125 

rent with transformer and tube rectifiers, storage batteries 
with suitable ampere-hour capacity, and alternating current 
with transformer but without tube rectifiers (raw alternat- 
ing current). Of these five possible producers of transmitter 
power, the two first named are the most widely used. Several 
modern types of transmitter are equipped with transformer 
and rectification apparatus which transforms the coming line 
current to proper voltages and rectifies the alternating char- 
acteristics into a smooth pulsating current suitable for 
modulation purposes. Step-down transformers supply proper 
voltages for the tube filaments. Storage batteries with a suffi- 
cient combined strength may be used as a source of power 
supply. In fact, batteries supply the ideal current, but the 
enormous assembly of cells necessary for the high-plate 
voltages required in modern transmitters precludes their 
continuous use. A storage-battery assembly, however, with 
gasoline-driven charging equipment, is sometimes used as an 
auxiliary power supply. 

The Chicago Police Department now has available for im- 
mediate operation three separate and independent power- 
supply installations. A number of other departments have 
installed complete auxiliary transmitters, which provide of 
course the most satisfactory form of insurance against trans- 
mitter breakdown. In such installations, provision for auto- 
matic throw-over from one transmitter to the other when 
breakdown occurs will eliminate the possibility of any delay. 
If economy is imperative, it is not absolutely necessary that 
the auxiliary equipment have the same power rating as the 
regular equipment nor need it be an elaborate affair, since it 
will only be used for very brief periods. The ideal auxiliary 
transmitting equipment would be an exact duplicate of the 
service transmitter. Some sort of reserve transmitter should 
be provided and it should be the very best obtainable within 
the local limitations. A medium-power transmitter for this 
purpose may be installed at a nominal cost. If even this is not 
possible, communication officers should acquaint themselves 
with all private transmitting equipment in the immediate 

126 Police Communication Systems 

vicinity, including transmitters employed by commercial 
broadcasting companies and particularly the equipment in 
use by amateurs. Many amateurs possess transmitters of 
extraordinary efficiency and these may be converted to the 
assigned police frequency with very little manipulation or 
adjustment. Remote-control lines may be very easily set up, 
and, without moving or seriously disturbing the amateur's 
equipment, police broadcast may be continued without inter- 
ruption while necessary repairs are being made to the police 
transmitter. The amateur has always been cooperative, and 
communication officers will find him ready and willing to 

A police radio transmitter should be ruggedly constructed 
of the best materials known to be suitable for radio telephone 
practice. The complete equipment should be arranged to oper- 
ate directly from electric power of a readily available type. 
Starting, stopping, tuning, and maintenance of the equip- 
ment should be simplified, and of such nature as to permit its 
use by persons not particularly skilled in the operation of 
radio telephone equipment. All units of the equipment should 
be completely enclosed, with the enclosing material perforated 
to permit ventilation. Safety appliances should be attached 
wherever practicable. AH doors to the transmitter-housing 
proper may be provided with switches which automatically 
shut off all power when the doors are open, thus giving protec- 
tion to operating personnel from contact with high voltages. 
Further, as a protection against unauthorized entry and fore- 
warning of sabotage or other damage to transmitting equip- 
ment, suitable alarm contacts should be provided in the 
immediate vicinity of the transmitter. In St. Louis, for ex- 
ample, the room in which the transmitter is placed, is so 
wired that entry is impossible without automatically sending 
in an alarm to officers in the dispatching room. 

The antenna system, being unavoidably exposed to the ele- 
ments, is subject to the ordinary processes of erosion as well 
as to other factors which may undermine if not cripple trans- 
mitter operation. The antenna is primarily an elevated wire, 

The Police Radio System 127 

well insulated from the ground, and should receive careful 
inspection at regular intervals, particularly with respect to 
insulation. If this equipment is carried away under storm 
conditions or in any other way seriously damaged, an emer- 
gency antenna should be erected at once, the following funda- 
mental requirements of antenna installation being borne in 
mind: (1) erect as high as possible; (2) keep clear of build- 
ings, commercial transmission lines, and other metal objects ; 

(3) insulate carefully, particularly at the remote end; and 

(4) fasten securely. A supply of extra antenna wire, insu- 
lators, and other auxiliary equipment should be on hand at 
all times for making necessary repairs or substitutions. An- 
tenna insulation may break down if the voltages or currents 
are excessively high, and, occasionally, as a result of the 
insulator's accumulating large quantities of dirt, soot, and 
moisture. Insulators should be cleaned whenever the oper- 
ator notices a decrease in radiation resulting from this condi- 
tion. The voltage in the antenna, when the transmitter is in 
operation, is greatest at the remote end, and the heaviest insu- 
lation must be provided at this point of high potential strain. 


The designer of police automobile receiving equipment must 
take into account inflexible requirements. Ruggedness of con- 
struction is essential in order that the instrument may be 
able to withstand hard everyday use in a moving automobile. 
It is desirable that the case or container be constructed of 
some indestructible material such as aluminum or steel. All 
parts should be so designed and constructed as to preclude 
the possibility of change in adjustment by severe road shock. 
Ease of installation is important. In the early development 
of motor-car receivers, it was almost necessary to attach the 
car to the set. With the modern receiver, a mounting plate for 
the chassis and container is generally provided, which can be 
quickly installed on the bulkhead. The chassis and container 
hook into this plate quickly and securely. The magnamotor or 
other battery eliminator equipment and the loud-speaker unit 


Police Communication Systems 


A radio receiver set for police patrol cars : a, the receiver, cased ; 

fc, the removable receiver chassis which expedites 

servicing operations. 

The Police Radio System 129 

require but a few minutes to install, and three to five hours' 
work is now sufficient to make a complete autmobile receiver 

Compactness of units is recommended. The over-all dimen- 
sions of the receiver should be reduced as far as possible, since 
space is usually at a premium and the available locations for 
the receiver are few. The average dimensions of the modern 
police receiver are : chassis, height, 7^2 inches, width 7 inches, 
length, 9 inches; container, height, 10^2 inches, width, 9% 
inches, length, 12 inches. The receiver chassis and associated 
container should be arranged in such a way that removal of 
the chassis from the container does not involve the removal 
or disconnection of wires or tuning controls or of more than 
six retainer bolts or screws, including those used for holding 
the container cover in position. In some modern receivers, 
only one bolt has to be removed. The complete receiver unit 
should be such that without modification or alteration it may 
be rigidly mounted in an accessible position. The receiver 
chassis and its container should be so designed that all chassis 
are readily interchangeable without disconnecting any wires 
or controls. The working unit must be readily replaceable in 
tube failure or other trouble. A spare or emergency chassis 
can thus be inserted summarily and the police car remain in 
service. This is accomplished with the aid of aircraft-type con- 
necting plugs and spring latches, which permit quick discon- 
nection and reconnection. Other auxiliary equipment already 
supplied with modern receivers is available ; this gives longer 
wear to the mounting and adds to the ease of servicing. 

The electrical requirements of the police automobile re- 
ceiver are severe indeed. This equipment must be many times 
more sensitive than any home receiver. Home receivers may 
operate with an antenna seventy-five feet or more in length; 
the motor-car receiver at best can have only a small antenna 
input. The sensitivity of the receiver should be such that, 
when used with an antenna having an effective height of 20 
centimeters, a signal intensity of 10 microvolts per meter 
will produce an output of 150 or more milliwatts to the loud- 

130 Police Communication Systems 

speaker, assuming that the input signal is to be modulated 
by 50 per cent. Selectivity should be such that, when a sig- 
nal is given having a field intensity equal to the intensity of 
the signal to which the receiver is tuned but differing in 
frequency from the desired signal by plus 10 kilocycles per 
second, the given signal shall produce a signal input to the 
detector grid the level of which shall be 10 decibels or more 
down from the level of the signal to which the receiver is 

It must also be possible to tune the receiver to the desired 
police frequency and to permit locking on that frequency 
in such manner that alteration of the adjustment by road 
shock will be impossible. Some departments make this lock- 
ing feature so positive that the tuning adjustment cannot be 
changed by the operator of the car. 

Wiring of the receiver installation should be so arranged 
that no connections or terminals are exposed. All connecting 
cables should be shielded with flexible copper braid shielding- 
material. The connections to be made in the installation of 
the receiver should be limited to one cable to the car storage 
battery, one cable to the battery eliminator, and one to the 

In quality of reproduction, the receiver should possess 
audio-frequency characteristics such that the amplification is 
substantially constant from 70 to 5000 cycles per second. The 
audio system is designed in conjunction with the loud-speaker 
for clear speech articulation. Special emphasis has therefore 
been placed upon developing a receiver and speaker unit 
which will cover the voice frequencies efficiently. It is advan- 
tageous to eliminate from the design means for reproducing 
the very low or very high audio frequencies. The lows tend 
to overload the tubes, the highs only add noise. 

The power output of the receiver should be such that the in- 
structions coming from the transmitter can be heard through 
the loud-speaker when the car windows are open. The volume 
level required is higher than the volume level at which an 
ordinary conversation is carried on in a moving automobile. 

The Police Radio System 131 

Automatic volume control, already mentioned, should be 
incorporated in the police receiver. The mobile police set is 
subject to continual changes in the strength of the trans- 
mitted signal, occasioned by varying distances from the trans- 
mitter, the shielding effect of buildings, underpasses, and 
similar structures, as well as other phenomena connected with 
radio transmission. Without automatic volume control facili- 
ties, the officer would be under the handicap of almost con- 
tinuously operating a manual volume control to compensate 
for the variations in signal strength. 

The manual volume control, however, should be simple. 
Manual adjustment of volume by a potentiometer mounted 
on the steering column permits the car operator to adjust the 
volume of reproduction to suit his personal choice or to meet 
temporarily any special conditions. The control head gener- 
ally includes the manual control knob, tuning dial, and on- 
and-off switch. Special jewel lights will indicate that the set 
is in operation and show when the sensitivity is at a maximum. 

The cone type of speaker has taken first place in all modern 
radio installations, both stationary and mobile. For automo- 
bile use, particularly in police service, the magnetic cone 
speaker is used almost exclusively. In the electrodynamic 
speaker unit, a constant field-exciting current of six volts or 
more is necessary ; this represents an additional drain upon 
the available current supply in the automobile ; the use of the 
magnetic speaker does not involve this expense. 

The position of the speaker unit is not extremely critical 
for good reproduction. Any service man, by testing the unit 
at different angles and locations in the car, can determine the 
place where reproduction is best. It is not always practicable 
to mount the receiver and speaker side by side in a location 
that is ideal for both. The bulkheads are usually crowded with 
automotive equipment, leaving often only the motor compart- 
ment for the installation of the receiver proper. The ideal 
position of the speaker is face out, with the unit flush with 
the instrument board ; but this position is usually impracti- 
cable on account of the space factor. An alternative is to leave 

132 Police Communication Systems 

it at the same approximate level but move it back to the bulk- 
head. In certain types of automobile receivers, where speaker 
and receiver are built together as one composite unit, the 
problem is somewhat simplified. 

On the installation of the antenna, extraordinary limita- 
tions are imposed, chiefly because the effective height of a 
radio antenna from the electrical ground has a direct bearing 
upon its pick-up and the power of input to the receiver. In an 
automobile, the effective antenna height has to be extremely 
low because it is desirable that the antenna construction be 
concealed and inconspicuous, and a superstructure on top of 
the car is therefore impracticable. Almost all makes of auto- 
mobiles are provided at the factory with a built-in roof an- 
tenna. The lead-in wire is usually brought down one of the 
front corner posts and coiled up behind one of the body lining 
sections, and it is only necessary to connect this lead-in to the 
shielded antenna cable of the receiver. The connection should 
be soldered and well taped. It is also important to make sure 
that the stranded metallic covering of the cable does not touch 
the wires at the joint when making the splice, as this will 
cause a grounding of the antenna. 


As the "A" or filament current is usually taken directly from 
the car battery, the amount of current used from this source 
is of vital importance. With the aid of recently designed tubes 
now available, the modern automobile radio receiver draws 
only 2.1 amperes, the amount of one headlight bulb. Ordi- 
narily, the added drain on the car battery can be compensated 
for by advancing the charging rate. Radio-tube manufactur- 
ers have been giving this problem serious attention, and new 
tubes designed especially for low current consumption are 
constantly appearing on the market. 

As a solution of the problem of plate current supply, the 
automobile radio battery eliminator has been designed as a 
substitute for the batteries formerly used in automobile re- 
ceivers. The cost of the eliminator represents a much greater 

The Police Radio System 133 

investment than the initial cost of batteries, and the advan- 
tages of its use must be sufficient to warrant this larger outlay 
of money. Even the best available commercial B battery will 
not last more than three or four months on a basis of only 
four or five hours' service daily. Toward the end of this rather 
short life, the battery becomes erratic and unreliable in the 
discharge of its duties. The volume begins to fluctuate, and 
the reception becomes unbalanced and distorted, because the 
deterioration of the battery has progressed more rapidly in 
the heavier loaded units so that their voltage has dropped 
more rapidly than in the other units. 

Service and replacement of batteries must be repeated fre- 
quently in the police patrol car, as the receiver is, as a rule, in 
continuous operation from eight to twenty-four hours a day. 
It is quite clear that, in the course of a year, the cost of battery 
replacements and service will more than equal the cost of an 
eliminator. This device has made possible a drastic reduction 
in the cost of receiver maintenance, since in police service the 
cost of battery replacements is the greater part of the cost of 
receiver operation. 

The work of the B-battery eliminator is clearly defined. It 
must perform in continuous duty as well as the B battery at 
its best, maintaining at all times an output voltage sufficient 
to ensure good volume and to establish faithful reception. The 
voltage output must be reasonably free from impurities ; that 
is, it must approximate as closely as possible the true direct 
current supplied by the B battery. The device must further 
have a fairly close voltage regulation ; the high-voltage out- 
put should not vary much with changes in the low-voltage 
supply and with fluctuations in the milliampere load, repre- 
sented by the receiver. It must be small, compact, light, and 
easily mounted. 

It is of the greatest importance that the eliminator should 
make but a low current drain on the car battery. In every 
new automobile design additional devices are installed and 
additional duties imposed upon the car lighting system, the 
generator, and the six-volt car battery. An increase in the 

134 Police Communication Systems 

capacity of the generator and battery might not seem very 
difficult at first ; nevertheless it would necessitate changes in 
the design of the electrical wiring and equipment, and to 
these the automobile manufacturer is generally opposed. It is 
therefore essential that the drain from the car battery be held 
as low as possible, so as not to interfere with the starting of 
the engine and the operation of the ignition and lighting sys- 
tems. A current drain of more than three amperes for such 
apparatus is definitely undesirable. 

The eliminator must be noiseless in operation. An inherent 
characteristic of voltage-conversion devices is the presence of 
sparks or electrical contact disturbances, and this makes it 
necessary that the unit must contain sufficient and adequate 
filtering equipment. In the interrupter type of converter, the 
filtering is somewhat more difficult than in rotating conver- 
sion devices, but these have the disadvantage of generating a 
mechanical noise. The device must be durable, uncomplicated, 
and strongly constructed so that it will require a minimum of 
service and attention. The minimum adjustment period of 
such a unit should be well over two thousand hours of actual 

It must be economical in cost; a list price of more than 
three times that of a battery replacement is expensive for 
this unit. The eliminator should earn its keep in one year. 
Such equipment should further be mechanically foolproof ; 
all rotating, moving, or vibrating parts must be subjected to 
as little wear as possible. Vibration from moving parts should 
be kept at a minimum. Variations in temperature should have 
no influence on its operation. It should be as nearly dust- 
proof and waterproof as possible. At the same time, all wear- 
ing parts should be easily accessible and their replacement 
quick and simple so that the service man may make necessary 
changes in a minimum of time. Finally, the life of the elimi- 
nator should be at least that of the average automobile from 
three to four years. 

The Police Radio System 135 


Numerous automobile receivers fully capable of meeting all 
the requirements of police service are commercially available. 
The installation, as all who have had experience will testify, 
must be done within most exacting limitations. The person 
making such an installation should be something of an expert 
automobile mechanic, and in particular he should possess an 
engineering knowledge of radio circuits and design, if the 
work is to be satisfactorily done. The best receiving equip- 
ment is worthless unless the installation is made according to 
accepted standards and with due regard for the mechanical 
and electrical requirements of the receiving apparatus. All 
manufacturers send detailed installation instructions with 
their instruments, and so far as practicable these instructions 
should be followed. Before installing the receiver, the units 
and all associated equipment should be checked against the 
shipping list. The general order of installation is to mount 
the control unit, chassis plate, chassis, flexible drive shaft, 
speaker, battery eliminator, and antenna, and then to install 
the suppressors and condensers for the elimination of noise 
caused by the ignition system and the generator. 


Actual purchase of transmission and receiving equipment 
should be preceded by competitive bidding on a rigid set of 
specifications. Bids should be asked only of concerns capable 
of engineering such an installation successfully. The specifi- 
cations and bidding instructions employed by the city of 
Milwaukee, Wis., in the purchase of police radio equipment, 
have been suggested by the American City Magazine as a suit- 
able standard. With minor changes and variations to meet 
certain local conditions, the Milwaukee form (see Appendix 
1, p. 483) may be used to advantage in the intelligent selection 
and purchase of police radio system equipment in the open 

136 Police Communication Systems 


For the protection of radio communication in general, a code 
of government regulations has been set up covering the li- 
censing and operation of radio transmitting equipment. No 
one can install a radio transmitter without first obtaining 
from the Federal government, after written application, the 
authority to do so, and no license will be granted for the oper- 
ation of any station unless a permit for its construction has 
been granted by the licensing authority, upon written appli- 
cation therefor. Applications for construction permit or modi- 
fication thereof, involving removal of transmitting apparatus 
and/or installation of new transmitting equipment, must be 
filed at least sixty days prior to the contemplated removal 
and/or construction. 

Construction permits are usually required to specify a 
maximum of sixty days from the date of granting as the time 
within which construction of the station shall begin, and a 
maximum of six months thereafter as the time within which 
construction shall be completed and the station ready for op- 
eration. Any application for extension of time within which 
to complete construction of the station must be filed at least 
thirty days prior to the expiration date of the original per- 
mit. Application for the station license must be filed prior to 
any service tests made with the completed installation. 

When construction of the station is completed and regular 
application for license is filed in exact accordance with the 
terms of the construction permit, the department is automati- 
cally authorized to begin service tests, using the equipment, 
power, frequency, and hours of operation specified in the con- 
struction permit. Such tests may continue for a period of not 
to exceed thirty days, provided the licensing authority is 
notified two days in advance of the beginning of such service 
tests. Authorization for service tests is not to be construed as 
constituting a license to operate. Under no circumstances may 
the station be operated under the construction permit except 
for testing purposes, until a regular station license has been 

The Police Radio System 137 

granted by the government. Application forms for construc- 
tion permit and station license may be obtained from the Fed- 
eral communications supervisor of the district in which the 
proposed station is to be located, or from the Federal Com- 
munications Commission at Washington, D. C. 

It is further required that one or more licensed operators 
shall be on duty at the place where the transmitter is situated, 
and whenever it is in operation. Details concerning examina- 
tions conducted for licensing of operators may be obtained 
from the two sources mentioned above. Finally, communica- 
tion officers should be thoroughly conversant with the provi- 
sions of the Radio Act of 1927, the rules and regulations of 
the Federal Communications Commission, and the general 
and special orders issued by that body from time to time. A 
law-enforcement organization should be the first to set the 
example in complying strictly with the laws and regulations 
governing radio communication. 


A radio receiving set is a comparatively delicate affair, and 
it is therefore subject to service failures if there is any serious 
disturbance of circuit adjustments or connections. This is 
particularly true of automobile receivers, which must con- 
stantly bear the brunt of road shock and other hard usage 
characteristic of service in a moving automobile. It is there- 
fore very important that proper attention be given to the 
economical and speedy servicing of patrol-car radio equip- 

The radio patrol service unit should be so manned and 
equipped that thoroughly satisfactory repairs can be made 
both rapidly and economically. The men responsible for this 
type of work should be highly experienced transmitter and 
receiver operators with a thorough understanding of the radio 
circuits commonly employed in police equipment. 

The number of men detailed to the radio service organiza- 
tion is chiefly determined by the number of radio patrol cars 

138 Police Communication Systems 

in service. Properly equipped, one efficient service man should 
be able to take care of the service requirements of from thirty 
to forty patrol cars, provided his time is not encroached upon 
by other duties. 

Most police radio-service organizations are housed in a cen- 
trally situated shop, with a complete assortment of the neces- 
sary tools and instruments, and a fast service car is provided 
to expedite servicing of cars in the field. Effective use of the 
service car has reduced markedly the average time out of 
service per receiver. In Chicago the city is divided into three 
equal sections, with a service car covering each section. These 
cars, which are in operation twenty-four hours a day, are di- 
rected by radio to the squad cars that develop any defect in 
their radio equipment. Each service car carries spare and re- 
placement parts of all kinds, together with specialy designed 
test equipment for checking receiver operation. Similarly, in 
Los Angeles and other cities, a radio-equipped service car is 
immediately dispatched to the point from which a radio pa- 
trol car, over the beat telephone system, has reported a defec- 
tive receiver to the complaint board. Major repairs are made 
in a well-equipped repair shop. 

The introduction of the removable chassis was a great help 
to police-automobile receiver construction. "Where minor ad- 
justments will not suffice to place a receiver in operating con- 
dition, the defective chassis is immediately removed and 
another slipped in to take its place. This has done much to 
expedite the servicing of radio patrol car equipment. The 
defective chassis is taken to the shop for thorough inspection 
and repair. 

The technique of radio servicing has called forth many con- 
flicting opinions, and the subject is further complicated by 
the frequent introduction of improvements in radio equip- 
ment. There recently appeared on the market within a period 
of two weeks sixteen or more new types of receiver tubes. It 
is still possible, however, to make certain fundamental steps 
in the procedure of receiver testing and servicing, which are 
likely to hold good for some time to come. Probably the one or- 

The Police Radio System 139 

ganization that has done more than any other to stabilize this 
important field in the radio industry is the Institute of Radio 
Service Men, with headquarters in Chicago. In the journal 
published by this organization, professional service men will 
find the latest information obtainable about the equipment 
and technique of radio servicing. 

With the development of present-day radio communication, 
there have appeared instruments specially designed to expe- 
dite the checking and measurement of electrical values within 
the suspected circuits of a defective receiver. Several reliable 
testing instruments or set analyzers are now available which 
make possible a speedier service. Manufacturers send with 
this type of equipment detailed instructions for making a 
rapid analysis of the condition of any radio receiver. 


Since the operation of the radio-patrol receiver is directly af- 
fected by electrical interference from external sources, this 
subject should be given more than passing mention here. In 
many cities radio-patrol operations have been seriously crip- 
pled as a direct result of this sort of avoidable interference, 
which is entirely foreign to the electrical system of the car, 
and which tends to reduce the signal strength of police broad- 
cast. External interference with the radio receiver installed 
in a moving automobile has to do with extraneous electrical 
noises which have their origin outside of the automobile and 
receiver electrical system. Two kinds of external interference 
are generally recognized : natural or meteorological, and 
"man-made." The former, which consists generally of a series 
of electrical discharges caused by disturbances in the atmos- 
phere, such as thunderstorms, northern lights, and heat light- 
ning, does not assume serious proportions in police broadcast 
operations. With respect to man-made static or interference, 
the situation is quite different. Some part of virtually every 
electrical device is potentially a radio transmitter, the radia- 
tions of which may be received in the police receiver with such 
intensity as to confound the desired reception entirely. 

140 Police CommunicoMon Systems 

Consideration of some of the common sources of man-made 
static will indicate the scope of the problem and some of the 
methods of solution. 

Electrical apparatus having a make-and-break contact con- 
tains the essentials of a spark transmitter, and thus a loose, 
dirty, or corroded connection may cause trouble. Some of the 
more common of the appliances liable to this fault are mo- 
tor generator sets, electric elevators, dental laboratoy equip- 
ment, diathermy machines, violet-ray and X-ray machines, 
high-tension lines, defective power transformers, street-car 
electrical systems, flashing signs, traffic signals, arc lights, 
and motion-picture machines. 

The interference created by a motor generator set is usu- 
ally heard as a high-pitched crackling sound, varying slightly 
in intensity from time to time. This interference originates 
at the D. C. end of the machine when it is used for converting 
direct current to alternating current, and may originate at 
either the D. C. or the A. C. end when the machine is used in 
changing alternating current to direct current. Usually, how- 
ever, A. C. to D. C. converters employ three-phase motors, 
which are not likely to create radio interference. 

Interference from the motor generator set usually origin- 
ates at the brushes and commutator of the motor. This inter- 
ference, which is caused by the making and breaking of the 
electrical circuit, is impressed on the direct-current lines sup- 
plying the motor, is distributed along these lines, and, being 
radiated from them, may be picked up by the antenna system 
of the receiver. The procedure necessary for suppressing in- 
terference from this type of equipment will vary with the ap- 
paratus used, its location, and the manner in which it is in- 
stalled. As a rule, it is necessary that a filter of the inductive- 
capacitive type be applied at both the D. C. and the A. C. 
end of the machine. 

The first and most obvious source of street-railway inter- 
ference is to be found in the driving motors of the cars. Since 
the motors are in operation almost all the time a car is mov- 
ing, the interference which they create is a serious impedi- 

The Police Radio System 141 

ment to radio reception. Call buzzers, light switches, door 
switches, the controller mechanism, and intermittent contact 
between trolley wheel and trolley wire, or between car wheels 
and rails, may also be sources of troublesome interference. 

The interference created by the various parts of the street- 
car is carried along the power, lighting, heating, and signal 
circuits of the car, many of which are cabled together or 
parallel each other, thus making for ease of inductive or ca- 
pacitive transfer of interference from the circuit in which it 
originates to the other circuits of the car. From any of these 
circuits, interference may be conductively impressed upon 
the trolley wheel and trolley wire, or it may be radiated from 
the car wiring and picked up by the trolley wire. The inter- 
ference which reaches the trolley wire, either by direct con- 
nection or by inductive coupling, may be distributed along 
the entire trolley-line system. Trolley-contact interference is 
caused by rapid changes in the resistance of contact between 
trolley wheel and trolley wire. These changes cause fluctua- 
tions in the flow of current to the car so that, even though 
there may be no measurable interruption of the flow of cur- 
rent, an electrical disturbance which will cause radio inter- 
ference is likely to result. Further, the passage of a car under 
power over a section gap results in the creation of interfer- 
ence from the interruption of current flow. On a heavily 
traveled line, this interference may be decidedly objection- 
able. Expert use of filters in the electrical system of the car, 
and proper bonding of rails, are generally recommended for 
the elimination of street-railway interference. 

Traffic-control apparatus is a frequent source of external 
interference. Both the flashing beacon used as a warning sig- 
nal at dangerous crossings and the synchronized or progres- 
sive form of traffic-control equipment may cause radio in- 
terference when operated electrically. Interference from this 
source depends in large degree on the manner in which the 
flashing beacon is installed, and on the power and telephone 
wiring arrangement. If all wiring is exposed, and particu- 
larly if the leads between the flasher mechanism and the load 

142 Police Communication Systems 

are long, the interference may be present at a distance as 
great as one mile from its origin. However, it is usually no- 
ticeable only within a few blocks of the beacon. 

Synchronized traffic-control apparatus may produce inter- 
ference consisting of a steady clicking, usually at such a fre- 
quency as to constitute an almost continuous roar, punctua- 
ted by clicks of greater intensity as the various indicating 
circuits are switched on and off. Since a synchronized traffic- 
control system may extend for several miles, the interference 
may be present in the entire area covered by the traffic-control 
system. Proper installation of filters or condensers offers a 
definite solution to this problem. 

Although no attempt is here made to discuss all the pos- 
sible sources of external interference, mention should be made 
of electromedical apparatus, since these devices are quite 
troublesome. Unlike most other electrical devices, which cre- 
ate interference in their immediate locality only, certain 
types of high-frequency apparatus set up interference which 
may destroy reception over a large area. In fact, in some 
places where the supply lines to the apparatus parallel the 
primary supply or telephone circuits, the disturbance may 
be spread over quite a distance, and may even be carried into 
cities several miles away. 

A diathermy machine is a device for the production of high- 
frequency currents to be used in the treatment of certain dis- 
eases. The circuit used for obtaining these frequencies is 
essentially the same as that employed in early spark trans- 
mitters, the operation of which is now forbidden by Federal 
law. In the diathermy machine a transformer, a condenser, 
and adjustable spark gaps are used to produce high-fre- 
queiicy currents. These currents are carried along flexible 
leads to metal electrodes which are applied to the body of the 
patient. The maximum high-frequency current used in dia- 
thermy treatments is usually 4000 milliamperes, or 4 amperes. 
When it is understood that a radio transmitter with an an- 
tenna current of 4 amperes may have a working range of sev- 
eral thousand miles, it is obvious that a diathermy machine 

The Police Radio System 143 

can do a good deal of damage to radio reception. Fortunately, 
the apparatus is not designed for maximum radiation at the 
frequencies used, and consequently the area affected by the 
direct radiation from the electrode leads is relatively small. 
This directly radiated interference seldom affects receivers 
that are more than 200 feet from the machine. The greater 
part of the destructive interference is carried along wiring 
circuits in a manner similar to the transmission of "wired 
wireless," or, more correctly speaking, carrier telephony. The 
high-frequency currents flowing in the electrode circuit of 
the diathermy machine cause voltages of the same frequency 
to be induced in the primary circuit of the transformer used 
and thus to be superimposed on the power supply line. The 
high-frequency currents flowing as a result of this induced 
voltage may travel back along the secondary distribution net- 
work for many miles unless a suitable filter is installed in the 
power supply line to the diathermy machine. Occasionally it 
is necessary to enclose the apparatus proper within a copper 
screen or shield. Ultraviolet and X-ray machines present sim- 
ilar problems. Once the source of interference is found, an 
expert electrician can recommend the procedure necessary 
for its elimination. 

About power-line interference much is yet to be learned, 
since its amount and extent is in large part dependent upon 
local conditions. In surveys conducted by field engineers, in- 
terference actually arising on power lines has been found in 
many instances to represent less than 7 per cent of the inter- 
ference complaints reported. The reports of radio-coordina- 
tion departments of public utilities show that power-line 
interference is the cause of between 5 per cent and 30 per 
cent of all interference complaints received. A "leaky" trans- 
former is a myth repeated so often that it is generally believed 
to be true. Such a condition could not be a continuing source 
of radio interference, since any leak in a transformer of suf- 
ficient magnitude to cause radio interference would bring 
about an early breakdown of the transformer and its prompt 
removal from service. 

144 Police Communication Systems 

Almost all of the interference apparently attributable to 
distribution transformers has been the result of arcing at the 
contacts of the plug- type primary cutouts. After primary cut- 
outs have been in service for some time, the contact springs 
tend to lose their tension, with the result that arcing takes 
place, causing radio interference which is likely to be dis- 
tributed along both the primary and the secondary distribu- 
tion networks. The effective remedy is simply the installation 
of a new cutout. 

Improper spacing of strain insulator bolts and metal cross- 
arm braces may occasion radio interference. In one instance a 
transformer installation was found in which the metal cross- 
arm braces were so close to primary insulator pins that infini- 
tesimal discharges of high-frequency voltage produced much 

A study will show the similarity of a power line, a strain in- 
sulator, and an insulator bolt, to a condenser. The two plates 
of the condenser are the power line and the insulator bolt, 
and the dielectric of the condenser is the insulator. As the 
power line bears a continually varying charge, it is obvious 
that the insulator bolt, which is the opposite plate of the con- 
denser, will also bear a continually varying charge. Although 
the quantity of this charge may be extremely small, the ra- 
dio-frequency energy developed when the charge leads off to 
ground or to a metal object having a different charge (such as 
another insulator bolt, a metal crossarm brace, or a crossarm 
bolt) is impressed on the high-tension line and also on the low- 
tension line by this same condenser action, and is thus dis- 
tributed along the wiring system. 

Some of the most common sources of power-line interfer- 
ence are : loose line connections ; tree grounds, slight or other- 
wise (voltage about 1000) ; arcing fuse contacts; arcing con- 
tacts in cutouts ; loose fuse or cutout contacts ; defective light- 
ing arrestor ; defective insulators ; loose street lamps ; poor or 
loose grounds on neutrals ; defective or broken transformer 
bushings; loose transformer cores (not always); and guy 
wires across lines (not necessarily grounded) . 

The Police Radio System 145 

An interesting example of transmission-line interference 
was reported some time ago. An 11,000-volt line which passed 
within a short distance of a cement mill seemed to be ex- 
tremely noisy. Investigation disclosed that the noise was 
caused by leakage across insulators, the leakage being the re- 
sult of a deposit of cement dust on the insulators. In order to 
keep this line free from noise, the insulators are now washed 
periodically to remove the coating of cement which caused 
the leakage and consequent interference. 

One further source of interference found on transmission 
lines is the corona discharge which takes place when long ends 
are left on insulator tie wires. This interference may travel 
for some distance along the transmission line. The remedy is 
to cut short any loose ends of tie wires in order to eliminate 
the discharge. 

Extensive research on the problem of transmission-line in- 
terference is being carried on by power companies, univer- 
sities, the National Electric Light Association, and many 
independent engineers. At present a complete outline is not 
available, but the attention that is now focused on the prob- 
lem seems to promise a satisfactory solution at an early date. 

The few illustrations just given afford some idea of the way 
in which external interference originates and travels. It may 
assume such proportions as to warrant the adoption of spe- 
cial means for its elimination. Although the field-intensity 
survey previously outlined as a prerequisite to the proper 
location of the transmitter may reveal many sources of exter- 
nal interference, it may also be advisable to make an inter- 
ference survey of the area served. The significance and value 
of such a project is amply illustrated by the fact that, in a 
number of cities, civic organizations have instituted these sur- 
veys because of the destructive effect of external interference 
upon broadcast reception. At this writing, no such survey 
looking toward the improvement of patrol-car reception has 
been made by a police department, but with an inevitable 
refinement in police radio technique and operation, this may 
be a logical future step. 

146 Police Communication Systems 

The interference survey, so far as the technique is con- 
cerned, resembles in many respects the field-intensity survey. 
An interference locator is employed, which is, in reality, a 
very sensitive portable radio receiver, light enough to be car- 
ried easily by one man. One such instrument, now available 
on the market, employs a four-stage tuned radio-frequency 
amplifier to obtain the extreme sensitivity necessary. The in- 
put circuit is so designed that it may be tuned to various types 
of antenna, thus providing a maximum of sensitivity under 
all conditions. A filament control knob operates a rheostat 
governing the voltage applied to tube filaments, and a meter 
connected in the filament circuit indicates the applied volt- 
age. By depressing a button at the top of this meter, the plate 
voltage may be read. 

The human ear unaided is a poor indicator of noise inten- 
sity, being rather easily overloaded so that, after a certain 
noise level has been reached, it does not respond to further 
increases in noise. The intensity meter is not subject to these 
limitations, and will continue to record increases of interfer- 
ence intensity after the ear has become overloaded. The in- 
tensity meter also makes possible a comparison of interfer- 
ence intensities. The sensitivity control of the instrument is 
set at a predetermined position and the meter deflections un- 
der varying interference conditions may then be noted. A 
frequency selector, or tuning dial, is provided at one side of 
the control panel. 

In order to permit the detection of electrical disturbances 
in the audio frequency range, a jack, marked "audio," is pro- 
vided on the top panel. When the plug of the audio coupling 
unit is inserted in this jack, the signal is impressed on the pri- 
mary of the first audio-frequency transformer ; consequently, 
there is no possibility that a radio frequency impulse will be 
indicated by the output meter when this jack is being used. 
This instrument is powered by self-contained batteries, and 
is also equipped with jacks for the use of external battery 
equipment. When fully equipped with tubes and batteries, 
the instrument weighs approximately thirty-five pounds. 

The Police Radio System 147 

The purpose of the survey is to discover and identify the 
sources of interference in order that recommendations may 
be made for their elimination. Although the services of an 
interference expert are to be preferred, the radio technicians 
connected with most police departments are fully competent 
to make such a survey with the aid of equipment similar to 
that described above. Local radio dealers, amateurs, and citi- 
zens whose interests are directly affected may be encouraged 
through suitable publicity channels to report sources of in- 
terference that come to their attention. Most broadcasting 
stations will cooperate in any movement that will help their 
own listeners to obtain better reception. The following partial 
report of an interference survey recently made by interfer- 
ence engineers, indicates the scope of such a project. 


Heavy general interference. Area : section bounded by River, North 
Main, Center and Niagara streets. Source: Corona discharge on high- 
tension line coming in on Washington Avenue and Bridge Street. Vari- 
ous electric motors and sign flashers. 

Heavy individual interference. Area : North Main and East Center 
streets, with center of disturbance on Third and Newport avenues. 
Source: large diathermy machine in Dr. Briggs's office. This interfer- 
ence blankets the entire area, preventing the reception of even local 
stations. Dr. Briggs also operates an X-ray machine. 

Other individual interference. Area: all sections. Source: oil burn- 
ers, sewing machines, commercial motors and sign flashers (business 
blocks), fire-alarm generator, Western Union Telegraph Office, and au- 
tomatic dial telephones. 

Interference cleared. Power lines : Avith the aid of Power Company 
line crew, all sources of line trouble, such as tree grounds, broken in- 
sulators, loose cutouts, ground leaks (defective insulation underground), 
and other small defects found were cleared up. Interference carried on 
power lines from other sources cannot be immediately remedied. All in- 
terfering appliances will require the application of proper filter to 
silence the interference caused by their operation. 

High-tension line, 33,000 volts. Relief from this source of trouble 
may be secured by either moving the line away from other parallel 2300- 
volt feeders, or by the use of "no-static" insulators and wooden cross- 
arms. Present construction is wooden poles, steel "wishbone" crossarms, 

148 Police Communication Systems 

and porcelain pin type insulators. A 2300-volt feeder is carried on the 
same poles and picks up interference of the 33,000-volt line. 

Recommended installations. Factory, 326 Eiver Street : filter on bat- 
tery charger generator ; bad interferences. 

General recommendations. (1) Application of proper niters to all 
new installations of interfering appliances. (2) Use, by Power Com- 
pany, of interference locator, to check its line and other interference. 

(3) Periodic trimming out of tree branches to prevent tree grounds. 

(4) Use of latest type porcelain cutout boxes. (5) Bringing in of high- 
tension lines down upper Belmont Avenue, instead of through Washing- 
ton Avenue. This would require the changing of about six miles of line. 

In many places, local ordinances have been drawn to com- 
pel owners of disturbing machinery to suspend its operation, 
or to adjust it so that no interference will be created. 4 Such 
ordinances must be so drawn that they will not conflict with 
Federal laws and should be so phrased as to be inapplicable 
to persons who are not guilty of willful or negligent disre- 
gard of the radio-reception rights of the community. 

In a Bulletin of the Federal Communications Commission 
issued in 1935, the following remarks are made. 

The spark and the arc, together with their accompanying radio inter- 
ference, are found in hundreds of appliances in common use. In some 
such appliances the disturbance is a necessary part of the apparatus. 
Examples of this are the X-ray, violet ray, and diathermic machines. 

In these, radio interference is cured or prevented by the insertion of 
attachments which prevent the flow of the radio frequency impulses back 
into the power lines for general dissemination. In other devices, the 
interference is not necessarily produced by the operation of the device, 
and is due only to improper design, or to a defect which has developed. 
Devices of this character are heating pads, vibratory battery charges, 
electric sign flashers, motors and controls such as those used in vacuum 
cleaners, electric refrigerators, washing machines, elevators, and innum- 
erable other devices. 

The holding of the householder to a criminal or penal responsibility 
because of the mere ownership or operation of a device within this classi- 
fication, is certainly unjust. In many cities, however, ordinances of gen- 
eral application have been enacted where the real purpose has been to 
reach individual offenders who knowingly and persistently operate in- 
terference-producing devices of wide effect, refusing to attach corrective 
apparatus or to make repairs. As to such persons, ordinances are valid, 

4 See Appendix 3, p. 494, for examples of municipal legislation on this 

The Police Radio System 149 

if reasonable. In such applications, the ordinances are in no wise bur- 
dens on interstate commerce, but are rather in aid thereof. They come 
within the power of the State to prevent and abate nuisances. 

Whether the device causes interference through lack of choke or filter 
attachments, or through improper design, the cure for the interference 
lies in the education of the manufacturer. Many brands of devices have 
become specifically known as interference producers, and this reputation 
is compelling manufacturers to improve their construction. Already a 
large number of such appliances carry the guarantee of the maker that 
they will not produce interference with radio reception. The importance 
of the work along this line of trades associations has been tremendous, 
and the time will arrive soon when this type of interference will no 
longer exist. 

Regulations such as those just described are designed par- 
ticularly to remove conditions which interfere with broadcast 
reception. Their enactment of course automatically improves 
the situation in respect to radio patrol-car operation. Gener- 
ally speaking, the broadcast frequency channels are more 
subject to the vagaries of external interference than are the 
police frequency bands. Occasions frequently arise, however, 
in which patrol-car reception over a comparatively wide area 
is difficult because of high-frequency radiation from some 
piece of electrical equipment. Once found, the source of the 
interference may usually be corrected without resort to legal 
means, by approaching the owner of the suspected apparatus 
and suggesting the necessary changes. The police will, as a 
rule, be given the best of cooperation in such matters. If the 
owner is obstinate, the city attorney should be consulted. 


Radio legislation, so far as the police department is con- 
cerned, is not limited to city ordinances providing for the re- 
duction and elimination of external interference. In national, 
state, and municipal jurisdictions, rigid laws have been en- 
acted and are now in force, which have a direct bearing upon 
the installation and operation of police radio communication 

In the regulation of radio communication, legislators are 
under the necessity of making their enactments conform to 

150 Police Communication Systems 

the invisible laws of nature. All that can be intelligently dis- 
cussed or made the subject of treaties, laws, and regulations, 
is fundamentally the question of the use of the ether for the 
operation of transmitting stations and receiving sets. 5 If ex- 
cessive numbers of radio stations are permitted to propel 
waves into the ether, the resulting interference will decrease 
the usefulness of this new medium of communication and, if 
great enough, would make it useless to everyone. No other 
kind of business presents this peculiar dilemma. The fact that 
there are such obstacles in the business of radio communica- 
tion means that, instead of the comparatively slight amount 
of regulation that would otherwise be necessary, nations must 
bind themselves by treaty to obligations which they would not 
accept with reference to any other activity. Furthermore, the 
radio administration within a nation must have a decisive 
power over the radio operations of its nationals, such as it 
neither has nor desires over their other activities. 

If the ordinary receiving set used for the reception of 
broadcast programs could cover the entire span of the radio 
spectrum, including both the low- and the high-frequency 
bands, the listener, by turning the dial above or below the 
present popular broadcast limits, would encounter a world of 
activities in radio communication the existence of which he 
hardly suspects. By turning the dial into the low-frequency 
band, he would hear the familiar dots and dashes of the tele- 
graphic code used by ships in communication with each other 
and with the shore, by aircraft, by government stations, and 
by stations engaged in transoceanic communication. He might 
also hear the wireless telephone service which spans the 
Atlantic and the Pacific. By turning the dial toward the 
high-frequency band, he would again hear ship, aircraft, gov- 
ernment, and other stations engaged in telegraphic commu- 
nication with foreign countries, and also within the United 
States. He would also intercept the messages of any one of a 
hundred or more police transmitters directing radio-equipped 
patrol cars to scenes of crime or of various emergencies. In 

5 Stephen Davis, Law of Radio Communication. 

The Police Radio System 151 

this section of the frequency spectrum he would be able to 
listen in on amateurs and experimenters, and even to hear 
broadcast programs being transmitted on the high frequen- 
cies from stations in the United States to remote foreign 
points. If he had the proper equipment, he would receive still 
and motion pictures transmitted by stations experimenting 
with television; he would hear stations used by oil companies 
prospecting for oil in the Southwest, by power companies, by 
state departments of agriculture, and by railroad freight and 
passenger trains. 

The orderly regulation of the extremely limited channel 
of communication which must be made to accommodate the 
requirements of these various services is a problem of the 
first magnitude, and requires judicial and engineering skill 
of a new order for its intelligent solution. This regulation is 
effected in large measure through a definite allocation of 
parts of the radio frequency spectrum to the various services 
which make use of this form of communication. 

Federal regulation. The first recognition of wireless teleg- 
raphy in the laws of the United States was the passage of the 
Ship Act of June 24, 1910 (36 Stat. L., 629), effective July 1, 
1911. This regulation was directed solely toward better pro- 
tection of life at sea ; it required the installation of wireless 
equipment on every passenger vessel carrying fifty or more 
persons, including passengers and crew. Limitations of wire- 
less transmission at that time are reflected in the provisions 
of the act, which required that the apparatus used should be 
capable of transmitting or receiving intelligence over a dis- 
tance of at least one hundred miles. 

Power to make regulations for the execution of the Act was 
conferred on the Secretary of Commerce, and enforcement 
duties were made a responsibility of the Bureau of Naviga- 
tion, which had charge of the enrollment and licensing of 
vessels. Through this Bureau, the Secretary of Commerce 
exercised all regulatory powers concerning radio communica- 
tion. Aside from an additional act passed on August 13, 1912 
(37 Stat. L., 302), dealing with radio apparatus on merchant 

152 Police Communication Systems 

ships, no further legislative action of importance was taken 
until the passage of a bill, which was approved by the Presi- 
dent on February 23, 1927 (44 Stat. L., 1162), creating the 
Federal Radio Commission. 6 Prior to 1927, Congress had 
given some attention to the problem of radio control, but ac- 
tion had been delayed 7 because of the coupling of regulation 
of transmission with the suppression of alleged monopoly in 
apparatus resulting from the pooling of patents. 

As created under this Act, the Commission was to possess 
Federal credentials as the original licensing authority for a 
period of one year, at the expiration of which time the Secre- 
tary of Commerce was to succeed to the licensing authority, 
and the Commission to become an appellate body. The Com- 
mission was to consist of five members, to be appointed by the 
President, with the advice and consent of the Senate. The 
powers specifically conferred on the Commission were as fol- 
lows : (1) to classify stations ; (2) prescribe the nature of serv- 
ice to be performed; (3) assign frequencies or wave lengths 
to stations or classes of stations, determine the power to be 
used, and allocate the time of operation; (4) determine the 
location of classes of stations or individual stations ; (5) regu- 
late the apparatus to be used with reference to its external 
effects and the purity and sharpness of emissions ; (6) make 
regulations to prevent interference; (7) establish zones to be 
served by any station ; and (8) make special regulations ap- 
plicable to chain broadcasting. 

As the end of the statutory period approached, it became 
evident that the licensing authority would have to be con- 
tinued in the Commission, or that the Secretary of Commerce 
would be compelled to assume this great burden. An act ex- 
tending the licensing power of the Commission was approved 
on March 28, 1928 (45 Stat. L., 373) , and once again the Com- 
mission's power in the field of radio regulation was continued 
for one year, that is, until March 16, 1929. 

6 The name was changed in June, 1934, to Federal Communications 
Commission. See below. 

7 Laurence F. Schmeckebier, Federal Radio Commission. 

The Police Radio System 153 

When the first regular session of the Seventy-first Congress 
convened on December 2, 1929, the President, in his annual 
message, recommended that the licensing power of the Com- 
mission be made indefinite, saying : 

I recommend the reorganization of the Eadio Commission into a per- 
manent body from its present temporary status. The requirement of the 
present law that the commissioners shall be appointed from specified 
zones should be abolished and a general provision made for their equi- 
table selection from different parts of the country. Despite the efforts 
of the commissioners, the present method develops a public insistence 
that they are specially charged with supervision of radio affairs in the 
zone from which each is appointed. As a result there is danger that the 
system will degenerate from a national system into five regional agencies 
with varying practices, varying policies, competitive tendencies, and con- 
sequent failure to attain its utmost capacity for service to the people 
as a whole. 

The work that had been accomplished in establishing some 
semblance of order in a field characterized by much confu- 
sion and chaos reduced Congressional opposition to the pro- 
posal that the Commission be vested with continued authority 
to function. Accordingly, there was passed without debate 
the Act of December 18, 1929 (46 Stat. L., 50), placing the 
licensing authority in the Commission "until such time as is 
otherwise provided by law." 

In June, 1934, a Communications Act was passed abolishing 
the Federal Radio Commission and transferring its records 
and functions to the Federal Communications Commission, 
together with all duties, powers, and functions of the In- 
terstate Commerce Commission relating to the operation of 
telegraph lines. This new commission is composed of seven 
members appointed by the President by and with the consent 
of the Senate, and is divided into three sections, namely, 
broadcast, telegraph, and telephone. 8 So far as regulation of 
radio and police communication is concerned, this agency suc- 
ceeded to the responsibilities, and now performs the functions 
of its predecessor, the Federal Radio Commission. 

8 Congressional Directory, 74 Congress, 1 Session, ed. 1, corrected to 
December 20, 1934, p. 516. 

154 Police Communication Systems 

The Radio Act of 1927, in addition to creating the Federal 
Radio Commission, codified into an established body of law 
certain measures for the regulation of radio communication. 
This Act, together with subsequent additions and General Or- 
ders issued by both commissions, provides the sole regulation 
of a new industry, which for a period of years presented 
and still presents a problem of major proportions. It is to 
the Commission, and under these regulations, that police de- 
partments must apply for the license and authority to op- 
erate a police radio communication system. The regulations 
should therefore be carefully studied, not only that they may 
be obeyed to the letter, but also that changes necessary to the 
future welfare of police communication maybe recommended. 

State regulation. Several states have attempted to enact 
legislation concerning certain conditions that directly affect 
the police communication system. The questions of legal the- 
ory and states' rights said to be heavily involved in such legis- 
lation, we shall leave for the jurists to settle, and consider 
now a few of the statutes that the states have enacted on this 

State radio legislation is almost invariably limited to mat- 
ters which concern the police power. Almost all the state 
statutes deal with the prohibition of short-wave receiving 
equipment in other than police cars, an attempt, however in- 
effective, to prevent the criminal use of police information. It 
is clear, however, and it is the growing consensus among police 
officials, that secrecy is impossible of attainment through leg- 
islative channels. Nevertheless, inherent in this type of law 
there are certain advantages to the police which are not to 
be overlooked. 9 

Municipal regulation. In addition to regulatory ordi- 
nances covering the reduction and elimination of external in- 
terference, cities have enacted legislation designed to improve 
the police radio communication system. This legislation deals 
in large part with the so-called "ambulance chaser" and others 
who seek to exploit police broadcasts for personal ends, and 

9 See Appendix 5, p. 502, for state laws on this subject. 

The Police Radio System 155 

with the regulation of short-wave receiving sets in auto- 
mobiles not intended for use by the police. 10 


In the beginning of police radio communication an attempt 
was made to use commercial broadcasting stations, since they 
were already established and in operation. Many of the orig- 
inal experiments with radio receiving equipment installed in 
an automobile were made possible through the cooperation of 
commercial stations, and, as we have seen, broadcasting fa- 
cilities were subsequently employed to a limited extent in ac- 
tual police operations, both in this country and abroad. 
Although this temporary arrangement was superseded by ra- 
dio installations exclusively owned and operated by the po- 
lice, the possibilities of the gigantic chain of communication 
represented by modern broadcasting stations should not be 
overlooked in contemplating the maximum use of radio facili- 
ties in police service. 

The incredible coverage of these commercial stations, 
because of their power and the enormous distribution of 
household receivers, places them in the front rank as a com- 
munication agency in exceptional instances where it is de- 
sired to give information to the general public in a wide area. 
The Federal government, fully aware of the services that can 
be given by these stations in a national emergency, included 
in the Radio Act of 1927 the following regulation : 

Upon proclamation by the President that there exists war or a state 
of public peril or disaster or national emergency, or in order to preserve 
the neutrality of the United States, the President may suspend or amend, 
for such time as he may see fit, the rules and regulations applicable to 
any or all stations within the jurisdiction of the United States as pre- 
scribed by the licensing authority, and may cause the closing of any 
station for radio communication and the removal therefrom of its ap- 
paratus and equipment, or he may authorize the use or control of any 
such station and/or its apparatus and equipment by any department of 
the government under such regulations as he may prescribe, upon just 
compensation to the owners. 

10 See Appendix 4, p. 497, for municipal legislation on this subject. 

156 Police Communication Systems 

The President shall ascertain the just compensation for such use or 
control and certify the amount ascertained to Congress for appropria- 
tion and payment to the person entitled thereto. If the amount so certi- 
fied is unsatisfactory to the person entitled thereto, such person shall be 
paid only 75 per cent of the amount and shall be entitled to sue the 
United States to recover such further sum as added to such payment of 
75 per cent will make such amount as will be just compensation for the 
use and control. 

Up to the present time, the use of commercial stations by 
the police has been for the most part limited to the broadcast 
of descriptions and information connected with missing-per- 
son reports. Police departments have been able to cancel many 
such reports promptly through immediate coverage of the 
surrounding area over broadcast facilities. 

In a recent situation involving the disappearance from 
Berkeley, Calif., of a sixteen-year-old boy, through the co- 
operation of commercial stations the author was able to throw 
out within a short time a radio net covering the entire Pacific 
Coast and Rocky Mountain area. Broadcasting stations in San 
Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Portland, Seat- 
tle, Denver, and Salt Lake City gave out the particulars of 
his disappearance, together with a personal description, and 
he was found the following day in Vancouver, B. C. 

It would be difficult to indicate the full implications to 
police radio communication of the tremendous area that, at 
every hour of the day and night, is being covered by commer- 
cial stations in the broadcast band. When broad dissemina- 
tion of information is essential, these stations can be of almost 
immeasurable usefulness. Moreover, in respect to public rela- 
tions, the wide contact made possible through police addresses, 
monologues, plays, and other similar radio programs, when 
properly presented, is hardly to be estimated. 

Should there develop a more extended police use of com- 
mercial broadcast facilities, it is likely that some arrange- 
ment will be made whereby the management of such stations 
may be reimbursed for the use of their equipment, particu- 
larly in emergencies, when their services can be of such great 
material assistance. 


GVEN A POLICE RADIO INSTALLATION in which the transmit- 
ting and receiving equipment meets all requirements, how 
shall the radio patrol be organized so as to take every advan- 
tage of the new communication system ? All the technique of 
modern police radio communication is directed toward a re- 
duction of the operating-time interval, that is, the interval 
between the commission of a crime and the appearance of of- 
ficers at the scene. This critical period falls quite clearly into 
four well-defined divisions, each characterized by a specific 
function; namely: (1) the time between the commission of 
the crime and the moment when some person lifts a telephone 
receiver to call the police; (2) the time between the lifting 
of the receiver and the beginning of actual conversation be- 
tween the person calling and the police department; (3) the 
time between this conversation and a broadcast of the report 
to police radio patrol cars; and (4) the running time of the 
patrol cars from the point at which they receive the broad- 
cast to the scene of the crime. All four of these time divisions 
are extremely flexible and amenable to time-reducing methods 
of operation. 

(1) Time interval between commission of crime and tele- 
phone call to police. Because of the wide distribution of 
telephones in all communities, the telephone is the most con- 
venient and most direct means of contact with the police de- 
partment. The time interval between the commission of a 
crime and the moment at which a telephone receiver is lifted 
from the hook is an extremely significant one. It may vary 
from a few minutes to days or months. Some crimes are never 
reported to the police. Occasionally, they receive almost in- 
stant notification, and in that event the law-enforcement 
organization has a reasonable opportunity to function effec- 
tively. Chief Quinn, of the San Francisco Police Department, 
commenting on this subject recently, said : "The main diifi- 


158 Police Communication Systems 

culty is the human equation represented by the reluctance of 
the average citizen to communicate with police headquarters 
after being attacked. ... If the public can be aroused to the 
degree that they will immediately, or as soon as possible after 
the attack, communicate with their police departments, giv- 
ing full particulars, the results will show great increases in 
arrests with consequent deterring of those who attempt to 
commit crime." 

A reduction in this time interval may be made to a marked 
degree through well-directed educational work. The New 
York Police Department recently issued a pamphlet for dis- 
tribution in that city, with this purpose in mind. Further, it 
placed at conspicuous points throughout the city large illus- 
trated posters and placards emphasizing the necessity of tele- 
phoning the police without delay. Obviously, the elimination 
of delay in making the telephone contact is more than equiv- 
alent to a reduction in running time of patrol cars, to which 
the police have given considerable attention. 

Commissioner Rutledge, of Detroit, in an address before 
the 1930 convention of the International Association of Chiefs 
of Police, emphasized the importance of speedy communica- 
tion in police operating technique. "In the early days of po- 
lice radio," he said, "my prediction that it would prove a valu- 
able ally and police weapon, was regarded by many as 'vision- 
ary' and impractical. Now I suggest and predict the use in 
stores, and eventually in private homes, of automatic call sys- 
tems, such as are now used in the banks to summon the police. 
I feel that this is one of the important developments to come 
in the future. Usually the victim of a burglary or a robbery 
is unable to call the police until after the thug has fled. Then 
he is so nervous or excited that he cannot give the police op- 
erators at headquarters his address or location, with the result 
that valuable time is lost. How much simpler and more effi- 
cient it would be if the business man could merely touch a 
button even while the thug was still in his store, sending the 
police speeding to the scene. I believe this entirely practical." 

In some foreign countries, particularly Germany, the tech- 

Radio Patrol Operation 159 

nique and methods suggested by Commissioner Rutledge are 
widely employed/At present, however, this method has the se- 
rious disadvantage of "blind" dispatching; only one element 
of the crime report is known location. Officers dispatched 
to the scene in response to such a summons must perforce close 
in on the location in complete ignorance of the nature of the 
disturbance, whether a robbery, street fight, or an accident. 
The great hazard here is not the personal danger to police of- 
ficers, since presumably they are out on duty, prepared and 
trained for any contingency ; the hazard lies rather in the 
reduced efficiency of patrol operation. Owing to the absence 
of descriptions and other information, officers en route to 
the scene may actually pass by the car or individual wanted. 
Many other related disadvantages inherent in this particular 
system of notification now classify it as a secondary solution 
of the problem; but future developments in communica- 
tion equipment and technique may eliminate all present ob- 

Some signal boxes are so designed that a variety of code 
signals may be sent in to the police station, each representing 
a particular type of disturbance or of service required. This 
equipment is similar in many respects to the first automatic 
telegraph police boxes which were early employed on beats. As 
a means of present-day police communication, it must be elim- 
inated at the outset on account of its complicated mechanism 
and operation. The first requirement of any communication 
device for reporting to the police is simplicity of operation, 
and in this respect the conventional telephone still holds first 

2. Time interval between lifting of the receiver and actual 
conversational contact with the police department. Gener- 
ally speaking, it may be said that the second interval of delay 
is a responsibility of the telephone engineer ; it represents the 
only one of time divisions 2, 3, and 4 over which the police 
have no direct control. 

3. Time interval between contact with police and broadcast 
1 See "Police Communication in Germany," pp. 446 ff. 

160 Police Communication Systems 

to patrol cars. Delay at this point seriously cripples the effi- 
ciency of the entire communication system as well as of the 
department. The cause lies usually either in a traffic over- 
load or a lack of organized operating procedure. 

It is fundamental in police work that a signal on the ex- 
change board indicative of an incoming call must be answered 
without delay. At the moment this signal appears, the re- 
sponsibility of telephone traffic engineers ends; their work is 
accomplished. At that same moment the police organization 
should begin to function, but in far too many departments 
unnecessary delay is allowed to creep in. Frequently, tardi- 
ness in responding to incoming calls is traceable to the phys- 
ical inability of any one individual to handle properly the 
volume of incoming traffic. The remedy here is obvious. All 
functions of the communications bureau should be coordi- 
nated and directed toward the elimination of delay and lost 

In this third time interval, we are concerned with the radio- 
dispatching unit of the police organization, upon which alone 
rests the responsibility for rapid technique in the delivery of 
orders and information to cruising radio patrol cars. Between 
the complainant or person reporting a crime, and the operat- 
ing patrol cars of the department, there must be an inter- 
mediate agency for receiving reports and information and 
for directing the movements of the force to meet the emer- 
gency. It would be ideal if the complainant might get into 
direct contact with the patrol cars in his immediate vicinity. 
It would be a simple engineering matter to provide appara- 
tus for automatically routing the voice of the complainant 
through the speech-input system of the police transmitter. 
This is already done in the advanced types of automatic 
holdup- and burglar-alarm systems, and the principle em- 
ployed may make possible sometime the fulfillment of Com- 
missioner Rutledge's prophecy. 

Even so, however, the complainant is still untrained in po- 
lice technique and at the moment of reporting a crime, par- 
ticularly a serious one, he is an emotionally unstable person 

Radio Patrol Operation 161 

who requires skillful and expert coaching in order to get from 
him without delay the facts of a crime report that are essen- 
tial for fast and intelligent police action. It is the primary 
function of the dispatching organization to act as an inter- 
mediate or connecting agent between the person or persons 
attacked, and the police field strength which may be dis- 
patched to handle the situation. 

The qualifications of the police radio dispatcher are similar 
to those of the police telephone operator. (See Chap. II.) He 
should be capable of working at traffic peaks with a cool mind 
and should possess the ability to make decisive judgments 
that are correct. The entire dispatching unit should be so or- 
ganized as to eliminate all lost motion and delay in moving 
the information from the complainant to the patrol force. 
Direct contact between the victim and the patrol car nearest 
him is the goal of police communication, and the necessary in- 
tervening agencies must therefore be reduced to the lowest 
possible minimum. In some departments this fundamental 
fact is appreciated, but in others the information may be re- 
layed from two to four times before it finally reaches the input 
system of the transmitter. 

There are three general methods of dispatching in general 
use. In the first, the functions of operation at the exchange 
switchboard and of dispatching are performed by the same 
person ; in the second and third, these functions are sepa- 
rated and assigned to different persons, but there is a defi- 
nite difference between the two in the manner of transferring 
the information from operator to dispatcher : in the second, a 
complaint record form is used ; in the third, the dispatcher is 
put into direct contact with the person calling. 

In the smaller communities, as in Kokomo, Ind., Tulare, 
Calif., and others, all incoming calls are received at the police 
exchange board by the desk sergeant, who also functions as 
the radio dispatcher. With the microphone and remote-con- 
trol equipment mounted directly in front of him, he is able to 
broadcast alarms almost simultaneously with their receipt. 2 

2 See description of the Berkeley police radio system, pp. 386 ff. 

162 Police Communication Systems 

The number of intervening and time-consuming agencies be- 
tween the victim and the patrol car is here reduced to the low- 
est possible minimum, and, in this particular, the combina- 
tion police telephone operator and dispatcher gives a service 
somewhat superior to that afforded by the more complicated 
dispatching systems in the larger cities. 

In the metropolitan area, the volume of emergency traffic 
requires special arrangements to accommodate the great flow 
of incoming calls as rapidly as possible. Dispatching proce- 
dure is more involved on account of the necessary decentral- 
ization of activities in the communication bureau. Here, the 
combination police operator and dispatcher gives way to spe- 
cialization ; functions and duties are divided in order to re- 
lieve congestion and provide maximum speed in handling the 
individual call for police assistance. Operating and dispatch- 
ing become separate activities, and each is assigned to a single 
person. The second and third methods of dispatching, which 
are characteristic of the metropolitan system, therefore in- 
volve the receipt of the complaint information by the police 
operator and its transfer to the radio dispatcher for broadcast. 

In the second method, this transfer is accomplished by 
means of a complaint record form, on which are written the 
essential details of the complaint or report as these are re- 
ceived by the operator. In Chicago, for example, all incoming 
calls for the police arrive at a central turret in the communi- 
cation bureau on the eleventh floor of Police Headquarters 
building. Seated at the operating position in this turret is a 
woman operator who answers no calls, but transfers them im- 
mediately to that one of twelve or more independent operat- 
ing positions in the same room which may be idle at the 
moment. Her function is that of a telephone dispatcher. Each 
of these operating positions consists of a small booth equipped 
with a standard telephone instrument and provided with a 
direct wire to either of two radio dispatchers, who are always 
on duty in the communication bureau. 

Emergency calls, and all others requiring police assistance, 
are recorded on a specific record form by the operator receiv- 

Radio Patrol Operation 163 

ing the call. Emergency reports are immediately transferred 
to the radio dispatchers for broadcast. Those calls not classi- 
fied as emergencies are transmitted to precinct stations over 
telephone lines by operators who do nothing else but handle 
such precinct traffic. The significant characteristic of this 
method of dispatching is the preparation of an embryo com- 
plaint form by the receiving operator prior to actual broad- 
cast of the report, as indicated below (p. 164) . 

Upon receiving an emergency report filled in on this form 
by the receiving operator, the dispatcher broadcasts the call 
and then passes the report form to the squad operator. Upon 
completion of a call, each patrol car is required to report back 
to the squad operator by telephone, giving the following in- 
formation : location of car when call was received ; time re- 
quired to reach the scene of the call ; nature of trouble and 
action taken, together with number of arrests made. This 
information is recorded on the original complaint form by 
the squad operator. 

In Los Angeles, 3 a record form similar to the Chicago report 
is filled out at the police complaint board by the receiving 
operator, and is passed to the index operator, who ascertains 
the car making the particular call. He notes the number of 
the district or car and transfers the report form to the dis- 
patcher for broadcast, after which it is passed to the disposi- 
tion clerk. Officers make all reports relative to their action at 
the scene of the calls at their respective divisional headquar- 
ters. Dispositions are not transmitted direct to the disposition 
clerk, but through the divisional desk sergeant, in order to 
save the expense of using pay stations, as the officers may 
employ the Gamewell system for communication with the 
divisional office. 

In the third method, the emergency call is transferred to 
the dispatcher, and he obtains directly from the victim or 
complainant the information necessary for broadcast. The 
volume of police broadcast, especially in the larger cities, 
precludes any extensive adoption of this method. However, 

3 See "The Police Communication System: Los Angeles," pp. 362 ff. 



























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Radio Patrol Operation 165 

in the greater number of metropolitan installations the dis- 
patcher is connected by direct wire with each operating posi- 
tion so as to facilitate "cutting in" on extremely important 
emergency reports. This expedient results in a great saving 
of time in major emergencies. 

The radio dispatcher has at his fingertips the entire re- 
sources of the Police Department, and every provision should 
be made for accelerating their use in the emergency. Maps 
must be provided, indicating by districts and beats the area 
patrolled and the distribution of radio-equipped patrol cars. 
Supplementary devices, either manually or electrically oper- 
ated, should be used to indicate cars in and out of service, so 
that the dispatcher may know at all times the number of cars 
at his disposal. 

In the large cities, vast street systems complicate the work 
of dispatching, and means must be provided to identify 
quickly the district in which a report originates. In Los An- 
geles, where there are more than 7500 streets, a satisfactory 
street-index system has been developed by means of which, 
it is stated, a total stranger can determine in from fifteen to 
twenty seconds the radio patrol area in which a certain street 
and number are to be found. St. Louis attacked the problem 
in an ingenious manner, under the direction of Sergeant 
Fisher, in charge of radio communications in that city. This 
device consists of a large map of St. Louis under plate glass. 
Stretched tightly across the map are two intersecting wires, 
and adjoining it is a complete alphabetical list of all streets 
and alleys in the city. Since the machine is electrically oper- 
ated, it is only necessary to insert two plugs at the proper 
point on the alphabetical list, opposite the streets concerned. 
When this is done, the two wires move and come to rest auto- 
matically so that their point of intersection on the map cor- 
responds with the exact point at which the crime report 
originated. With this device it is possible to determine in a 
minimum of time the radio patrol area in which the crime, 
or other disturbance reported, has occurred. The writer re- 
cently observed the St. Louis machine in action in a peak 

166 Police Communication Systems 

traffic hour. There was much evidence to indicate its worth in 
reducing the time required for the dispatching operation. 

4. Running time of patrol cars. Running time may be de- 
fined as the interval, usually in minutes and seconds, between 
the time of broadcast and the time of arrival of the directed 
patrol car at the indicated location. It is the generally con- 
ceded opinion of police officials that the running time of radio 
patrol cars must not exceed an average of TWO MINUTES if the 
radio system is to be considered a paying investment. This 
opinion, establishing as it does a dead-line operating interval, 
is fundamentally sound. Where the average running time of 
any police radio patrol system exceeds a maximum average of 
two minutes, it may be said that the installation is not pro- 
viding the service for which it was designed and which it is 
capable of giving. At the moment that the average running 
time trespasses beyond this limit, the investment in radio 
communication equipment tends to become unprofitable. 

The reason for this is simple enough. The investment in 
radio communication facilities is justified by the radical 
reduction in patrol operating time. It is through radio com- 
munication that the probability of apprehension and the 
preservation of important evidence and witnesses become a 
direct threat to criminal operations. The necessity for labori- 
ous and costly investigations may be eliminated at the outset 
by the prompt arrest made possible through reduced running 
time or, as Commissioner Rutledge would say, "by synchro- 
nizing the arrest with the depredation." Further, preserva- 
tion of important evidence and immediate identification of 
material witnesses expedite the criminal-trial process and 
reduce the cost of prosecution and conviction. 

A two-minute time interval is the extreme maximum limit 
within which these patrol functions may be discharged with 
any degree of efficiency. If that limit is exceeded, the hazard 
of escape, destruction or loss of evidence, and disappearance 
of important witnesses become almost a practical certainty. 
The running-time interval gives to the criminal his chief 
margin of safety, but it is also subject to police control. 

Radio Patrol Operation 167 

It is of the greatest importance to state here that any re- 
duction in the running time of patrol cars, even though by 
fractional seconds, under the established limit increases to a 
striking degree the probability of a successful run. This is an 
extremely critical period in respect to patrol strategy and 
operation. Within this well-defined limit of 120 seconds, any 
fractional reduction produces an increasingly rapid degree 
of progression from probable to absolute certainty of arrest 
as the running time approaches zero. 

The significance of every fractional-second approach to 
zero running time is aptly illustrated by the accompanying 
chart (p. 168) , which was plotted on the basis of arrests made 
by eight radio patrol cars in a typical 90-day period in De- 
troit. It will be noted that the curve between ninety seconds 
and zero is almost perpendicular. For purposes of compari- 
son, there is also presented a similar chart released by the 
Chicago Police Department covering radio operations in Feb- 
ruary, 1931. The average values shown are sufficiently above 
the two-minute deadline to negative, in large measure, the 
results that should be achieved with this rapid system of com- 
munication. Although the performance indicated by this 
curve is superior to that obtainable through the use of the 
conventional red-light recall system, it is still far from satis- 
factory. (Since 1931, it should be stated, the Chicago police 
radio system has been completely reorganized, with a marked 
reduction in this time interval.) With a two-minute interval, 
the radio system is still a serviceable agency, but its energies 
are a good deal wasted in lost motion and delay. 

The area of a radio patrol district bears a definite relation 
to running time. As in other forms of police patrol, and as 
determined by the same factors, the area served by a police 
radio system is divided or decentralized into definite sectors 
or radio patrol-car beats. There follows, however, from the 
foregoing discussion, one important additional element. Gen- 
erally speaking, the dimensions of a radio patrol beat should 
be such that the distance between any two points within the 
district may be traversed by an automobile, traveling at an 

168 Police Communication Systems 

average of twenty-five miles an hour, in a maximum time in- 
terval of two minutes. In downtown business sections and 
other congested areas, calculations should be made on the 
basis of an average automobile speed of fifteen miles an hour ; 

Percentage of arrests made by radio cruisers 
25 30 56 40 45 60 56 60 66 70 76 80 65 90 

Fractional-second approach to zero running time by radio-equipped 

police patrol cars : chart plotted on the basis of arrests made by eight 

cars in a typical ninety-day period in Detroit. 

in the less congested residential sections of the city, calcula- 
tions up to an average speed of thirty miles an hour may be 
employed. In the intelligent definition of radio patrol district 
boundaries, the physical topography of the area should be 
studied and a careful appraisal made of obstructions to travel, 
such as bridges, narrow streets, and traffic-flow conditions. 

Radio Patrol Operation 169 

In illustration of the way in which the modern police de- 
partment is meeting this problem, in eleven Detroit radio 
districts containing the larger part of that city's population, 
the average maximum distance that could be traveled in re- 
sponding to a call for police assistance is 1.44 miles, and the 
average distance actually traveled is .55 mile. In the other 
four districts, which are sparsely settled, the average maxi- 
mum distance is 2.4 miles, and the actual average 1.18 miles. 
This tabulation refers only to scout cars, and does not take 
into consideration the cruisers operating in various precincts, 
which might be anywhere within the area when a call is re- 
ceived. On many calls the cruiser is the first on the scene. 
The accompanying police map (p. 172) of St. Paul, showing 
the radio patrol districts, will be helpful in a further study of 
this problem. 

Two distinct systems of radio patrol-car distribution are to 
be found in the American police field today. The Los Angeles 
plan is typical of the large metropolitan organization where 
radio districts are superimposed upon and independent of 
the regular police-patrol beats. In this system, which is de- 
signed for large cities, the radio cars employed are scout cars 
and cruisers. 4 The scout cars, which are assigned each to a 
a patrol district, are usually light machines manned by two 
uniformed policemen. The cruisers are heavy, high-powered 
cars, equipped with riot guns, tear-gas apparatus, and simi- 
lar equipment. They carry from three to four plain-clothes 
patrolmen and detectives, including the driver, and are fre- 
quently provided with bullet-resisting windshields and other 
protective equipment. A given block in the business or resi- 
dential sections will be patrolled on some occasions by three 
separate agencies the scout car, the cruiser, and the beat 
patrolman. Because of this apparent duplication of patrol 
services in the larger cities and the effectiveness of the radio 
patrol system, there is a recognizable tendency among some 
police departments to reduce the strength of the regular old- 
line beat patrol force. In Denver and a few other cities this 

4 See page 113. 

170 Police Communication Systems 

has further led to the abandonment of substations, since the 
police radio system makes possible a highly centralized con- 
trol of the patrol force. Time and experience must determine 
the full effect of this policy. 

The second type of radio patrol organization is illustrated 
in Berkeley, Calif., where the radio communication system 

Performance of radio-equipped police patrol cars in Chicago for one 

month (February, 1931) ; service has since been improved. Compare 

with performance shown in figure on page 168. 

Radio Patrol Operation 171 

has been harnessed to the regular patrol beat organization. 
The patrol force in that city was completely motorized when 
radio communication first entered into police activities. It re- 
mained only to equip the patrol cars with radio apparatus in 
order to bring into existence a highly efficient radio patrol or- 
ganization. The radio patrol beat and the regular police beat 
in Berkeley are one and the same. Each radio patrol car is 
manned by one policeman suitably equipped for emergencies, 
and performs the functions of both patrol or squad car and 

In this type of organization, any one beat becomes the cen- 
ter of a larger patrol unit, since the patrol cars in adjacent 
beats constitute an available reserve force which can be 
massed or concentrated in the affected area at a moment's no- 
tice. Thus speedy protection is available to an entire section 
of the city, wherever a heavy concentration of the force is 
necessary. It is never advisable, however, irrespective of the 
patrol system employed or the nature of the emergency 
reported, to mass the entire radio patrol strength in one 
quarter. Some departments do, and the practice affords the 
opportunity for a favorite ruse of the professional criminal 
in minimizing the possibility of immediate police interfer- 
ence in the vicinity of an intended attack. Several bank and 
payroll robberies resulting in heavy losses have been made 
in several parts of the country by taking advantage of this 

Where approximately complete motorization of the patrol 
force is practicable, this second system of radio patrol more 
nearly balances economy and efficiency for a city in this popu- 
lation class. With slight modification, it could be adapted to 
the requirements of the metropolitan area with telling effect. 


The expansion of radio communication in the police field has 
been accompanied by a number of related developments. Chief 
among these are the police use of the higher frequencies for 
transmission purposes, the beginning of two-way radio patrol 

Radio Patrol Operation 173 

communication, and the organization of regional police radio 
systems ; and others include secrecy of communication, and 
the installation of radio receiving equipment on police motor- 
cycles, airplanes, and boats. 

As some of these developments, more particularly the use 
of high frequencies, two-way communication, and the regional 
radio system, indirectly resulted from limitation of the num- 
ber of radio frequency channels available for police use, it is 
necessary to consider the nature of these limitations. 


Prior to 1924, police officials had given serious thought to po- 
lice radio use, with the result that, at the thirty-first conven- 
tion of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, held 
in that year, it was proposed to petition the Department of 
Commerce, through the Supervisors of Radio, to set aside a 
special band of waves in the radio spectrum for the exclusive 
use of police departments. It was also recommended that a 
committee of well-informed members be appointed to attend 
a general radio conference called by Mr. Herbert Hoover, then 
Secretary of Commerce, and get for the police departments 
of the United States an allocation of exclusive frequency 
channels for police transmission. Thus, at this comparatively 
early date in the history of police radio communication, it 
was officially recognized that the allocation of specific fre- 
quency channels for police operations was an inevitable ne- 
cessity. No decisive action was taken in 1924, but under the 
leadership of Mr. Butledge, then Commissioner of Police at 
Detroit, and others, the matter of police frequency allocation 
continued to be a current police problem of major importance. 
At the 1929 convention, it was considered imperative that 
police departments should receive full cooperation from those 
who controlled the future of radio communication in this 
country. In view of the huge toll of crime and the cost of law 
enforcement, police officials felt justified in instructing a new 
committee to present the matter fully before the Federal Com- 
munications Commission. The committee consisted of seven 

174 Police Communication Systems 

Michigan Congressmen, one member of the State Senate, the 
Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, a lieuten- 
ant of State Police, the Highland Park Chief of Police, and 
Lieutenant Kenneth R. Cox, supervisor of the Detroit police 
radio station. Mr. Eutledge acted as spokesman. 

As a direct result of the work of this committee, the Federal 
Communications Commission, recognizing both the protective 
and the entertainment functions of radio communication, is- 
sued in April, 1930, General Order No. 85, which officially 
allocated a total of eight frequency channels to be used en- 
tirely for police transmission. The Commission also set up 
regulations governing the issuing of construction permits and 
licenses, and further set the maximum amount of power to 
be assigned to the use of stations in accordance with the popu- 
lations of the areas served by the respective transmitters. 

In the succeeding years the adoption of radio communica- 
tion by more than one hundred police departments in the 
United States has lead to a serious congestion in the police 
frequency band. With the saturation point already at hand, 
the gravity of the situation becomes apparent when it is 
stated that there are still more than two hundred and fifty 
cities ranging in population from 25,000 up that are not yet 
provided with this valuable form of protection. In 1931, the 
Law Observance and Enforcement Committee, appointed by 
former President Hoover, commented as follows : 

Although radio in police work is assured a brilliant future, condi- 
tions are arising which may become the cause of considerable apprehen- 
sion. Lieutenant Kenneth R. Cox, of the Detroit Police Department, an 
outstanding authority in the United States on police radio, in this con- 
nection wrote : 

"In scanning the figures, which must be considered as representative 
of the potential magnitude assumed by this vast development, we find 
that if the situation remains in its present uncontrolled state, the com- 
mission will receive applications for approximately 556 police radio sta- 
tions. We are confronted with an impending chaotic condition that gives 
promise of paralleling that of the broadcast spectrum before the re- 
allocation of frequencies. In view of this fact, it would seem advisable to 
anticipate such a condition and introduce precautionary measures that 
will prevent its occurrence." His suggestions were as follows : 

Radio Patrol Operation 175 

A. That assignments be granted to cities that have urgent need for 
police radio before assignments are made to smaller municipalities and 
areas where crime conditions do not warrant immediate introduction. 

B. That since the present stations are not existing on the frequency 
assigned, all be required to maintain frequency to within 100 cycles of 
the assignment. 

C. Since at present the tendency is to establish stations of too great 
power, that 500 watts, if possible, be the maximum allowed. 

D. That a national committee be formed of chiefs of police, who would 
have authority to determine acceptance or rejection of applications. This 
would relieve the Federal Eadio Commision from the burden of passing 
on propositions requiring a technical understanding of the problem. 

The program of Lieutenant Cox is one which it behooves all police 
officials to consider seriously. Should the air channels be monopolized by 
the smaller towns, whose problem cannot be of the same magnitude as 
the large cities, a very serious check will be placed over the police func- 
tion in this country. 

The Federal Communications Commission has made com- 
mendable efforts to escape from this strait jacket. Taking ad- 
vantage of the size of the United States, the Commission, 
through a geographical distribution of police frequency as- 
signments, together with a regulation governing the alloca- 
tion of power to individual stations, has provided an effective 
control of the country-wide police frequency pattern and 
transmitting range, and has made possible the use of the eight 
frequency channels by a hundred or more police departments. 

The following representative opinions concerning the prob- 
lem of power and frequency allocations, especially in view of 
the inevitable expansion in police communication, have been 
condensed by the author from a survey recently made among 
the radio-equipped police departments. 

(1) There was more or less general agreement that addi- 
tional frequency channels should be provided, making pos- 
sible allocations of power on a more flexible basis, since the 
limit of power allowable would then be a function of the wave 
length or frequency. 

(2) The more extensive use of the teletype network was 
recommended, particularly in connection with the work of 
state-wide police organizations. 

176 Police Communication Systems 

(3) It was urged that steps should be taken to have all po- 
lice stations maintain a tolerance of fifty cycles at their as- 
signed frequency in order to avoid the severe heterodyning 
between stations from four hundred to two thousand miles 
distant from the complaining station. 

(4) It was realized that the commercial broadcasting sta- 
tion must continue to have the right of way ; and the future 
allocation to police use of bands in the ultra-high-frequency 
part of the radio spectrum was predicted as the solution of 
this problem. 

(5) The geographical distribution of police frequency as- 
signments, having proved helpful in the past, was recom- 
mended for all future plans. 

(6) More effective organization of the police departments 
interested in police radio communication was sought, in order 
that the problems might be more intelligently attacked. 

One Eastern city, with a total area of 316 square miles, con- 
sidered a frequency of 2450 kilocycles to be satisfactory. 
Three transmitters were employed to give efficient coverage, 
one of 500 watts output, and two with 400 watts power each. 
Interference from outside stations was negligible, and was 
more particularly noticeable at night, when the messages of 
the neighboring cities of Rochester and Syracuse, the Bergen 
County, N. J., police, and Washington, D. C., could be heard. 
However, no outside signals came in so strong that they could 
not be overridden by the local signal when the local carrier 
was placed on the air. A power differential for day-and-night 
transmission, it was thought, would be a valuable improve- 
ment, since reception is much better at night. If the station 
were permitted to operate with 500 watts power at night, and 
at 1000 watts output in the daytime, transmission efficiency 
would be greatly increased and maintenance operations sim- 
plified, yet there would be no greater interference in the area 

Fortunately, the problem of limited police frequency chan- 
nels can be solved. Of the various expedients available, two 
offer the greatest promise of immediate relief, namely, the 

Radio Patrol Operation 177 

organization of regional police communication systems, and 
the police use of bands in the ultra-high-frequency part of 
the radio spectrum. The use of ultra-high-frequency channels 
is here treated first, followed by a consideration of the re- 
gional police communication system in Chapter VI. 


The ultra-high frequencies are so called because, when ex- 
pressed in kilocycles, they run to figures between 30,000 and 
400,000 or more, corresponding to wave lengths below 10 me- 
ters. These frequencies offer a new field of great promise in es- 
tablishing communication systems over comparatively small 
areas. Because of the phenomenal characteristics of signals 
transmitted in this part of the radio spectrum, definite areas 
can be very effectively covered, thus making possible the op- 
eration on the same frequency of a greater number of trans- 
mitters in a given geographical area without the interference 
that characterizes the channels now employed. 

Ultra-high frequencies travel in a straight line, for all prac- 
tical purposes, in much the same manner as a beam of light 
given out by a beacon. This means that the distances over 
which communication is possible are controlled by the height 
of both the transmitting and the receiving antennae. Small 
intervening objects, such as buildings, hills, trees, and similar 
obstructions, however, have no effect upon the transmitted sig- 
nal : it terminates on the visible horizon. If, for example, the 
transmitting antenna is placed at a height of 100 feet above 
ground, the horizon point, or maximum possible transmission 
range with high-frequency apparatus of the type to be de- 
scribed, would have a radius of IS 1 ^ miles, on the assumption, 
of course, that the receiving position is directly at ground 
level. The importance of antenna height in obtaining distance 
has been demonstrated in tests conducted by the Conserva- 
tion Department of the State of New York. In these tests, 
the ultra-high-frequency equipment was installed in a mono- 
plane. When the ship had gained an altitude of 6000 feet, it 
was possible to communicate signals over a distance of 110 

178 Police Communication Systems 

miles. The point with which communication was established 
was at an elevation of 100 feet above ground. 

Ultra-high frequencies also offer the very important ad- 
vantage of being free from the influence of atmospheric 
conditions. It was possible to operate throughout a local thun- 
derstorm without interruption. Since adverse weather con- 
ditions may be accompanied by increased police activity, the 
value of this advantage may be readily appreciated. Further, 
there is no noticeable differential in signal intensity between 
day and night transmission. As a rule, the signals are as 
strong at 12 noon as they are at 12 midnight. Fading, dead 
spots, and skip-distance effect, the enigmas of police broad- 
cast, are reduced to a negligible minimum. 

Although the Federal Communications Commission has not 
as yet allocated any part of the ultra-high-frequency spectrum 
for commercial services, experimental licenses are being is- 
sued for the operation of such stations in order to increase the 
available knowledge concerning operation in this part of the 
spectrum. The experimental status of the station continues 
until such time as the Federal government officially divides 
this spectrum into channels for the various services. 


Since the introduction of police radio communication, the ap- 
paratus has been much refined. Transmitters have been re- 
duced in size and weight, and their operation so improved that 
portable equipment can be operated successfully in the field. 
As a matter of engineering, two-way radio patrol communi- 
cation presents no particularly serious difficulty at present, 
and manufacturers now have available portable transmitting 
equipment specifically designed for police-patrol communi- 

Two-way radio communication presages a new era in patrol 
technique and operation. As a tactical instrument, it repre- 
sents a radical increase in the available channels of commu- 
nication between headquarters and the dispersed patrol force, 
with a corresponding increase in availability of police field 

Radio Patrol Operation 179 

strength. Speed of action, flexibility, and mobility of the force 
are increased, accompanied by an accelerated interchange of 
information and instructions in emergencies. 

Through the ability of the patrol car to acknowledge imme- 
diately the receipt of a message, the control-station dispatcher 
is assured that his broadcast has been properly received, and 
that the car or cars assigned are on their way to the scene of 
the emergency. Furthermore, while proceeding to the scene 
of action, and up to and including actual contact with the 
emergency, the motor patrolman may report his progress to 
the central station and to other motor-patrol units in the area. 

Thus the patrolman may directly solicit the assistance of 
other patrol units in the vicinity, and not lose valuable time 
by relaying the request for help through the central-station 
transmitter. Two-way radio communication thus makes mo- 
bilization almost instantaneous by increasing the speed with 
which patrol strength may be concentrated at crucial points. 

Conditions change very rapidly in emergencies. Originally 
reported as a minor disturbance, a situation may suddenly as- 
sume the proportions of a felony, and require a speedy ex- 
change of information and orders, with headquarters and 
with all mobile patrol units in the area. An officer dispatched 
to a vacant lot on a report that an intoxicated man is lying 
there, may arrive to find a man brutally clubbed and left to 
die "taken for a ride," in gang parlance. Or, officers arriv- 
ing at the scene of a reported murder may discover the blood- 
stained body of a woman lying on the bathroom floor, a victim 
of a fatal lung hemorrhage. Within the space of a few mo- 
ments, a simple traffic-accident report may involve the entire 
patrol force in the search for a hit-and-run driver, wanted 
for manslaughter. A motor-patrol car detailed to the investi- 
gation of three suspicious characters loitering in the vicinity, 
finds a bank robbery under way. On another occasion, "It is 
murder, not suicide !" and the man hunt begins. 

Examples are legion. The actual facts and circumstances 
seldom coincide with the original report of information given 
the department in a hurried call over the telephone for police 

180 Police Communication Systems 

assistance. A radio patrolman arriving at the scene of trouble 
may discover that additional man power is needed to handle 
the situation. Through direct conversation, he can mobilize 
immediate assistance, and later, if necessary, divert the flow 
of help in his direction to highway control points, at the same 
time directing the central station to get outside departments 
into action. Thus the patrol operating time is drastically re- 
duced, and in a most flexible manner the motor patrol force, 
either as individuals or as a unit, functions with a minimum 
loss of time. 

Two separate but related applications of two-way radio 
patrol communication can be recognized. In one form of or- 
ganization, only patrol sergeants or other field commanding 
officers are equipped with portable transmitting apparatus. 
In emergencies, these officers, by virtue of their localized con- 
tact with the situation, may direct the individual patrol cars 
under their command to the best advantage, maintaining at 
the same time a direct contact with headquarters. This ar- 
rangement represents a special type of decentralization in 
which, for the duration of the emergency, radio control is 
temporarily vested in the field commanding officer, subject of 
course to the receipt of additional instructions and informa- 
tion from the main transmitter at headquarters. 

The system employed by the Massachusetts State Police is 
typical of this first method of control. The transmitter is built 
into a six-cylinder, one and one-half ton truck, capable of a 
speed of sixty miles per hour. Transmitting equipment is of 
the master oscillator type, with a normal power output of 50 
watts, and 100 per cent modulated. In operation, it is main- 
tained in zero beat with the main transmitting stations on the 
frequency of 1574 kilocycles by a receiver-monitor arrange- 

Provisions have been made for setting up the station any- 
where. These include a sectional 55-foot mast, a gasoline- 
driven power supply, and a coil of special cable so that com- 
mercial power may be used if within reach. The transmitter 
has a range of from twenty to twenty-five miles in calling 

Radio Patrol Operation 181 

patrol cars, and will afford two-way communication with the 
nearest main station from any point in the state. The truck 
is equipped with riot guns, tear gas, searchlights, and other 
emergency apparatus. 

Operation of this system has proved very successful in lo- 
calized police actions, such as a man hunt and other opera- 
tions which attend the commission of violent crimes. The 
equipment can be sent to the scene, be set up, and serve on the 
spot as a temporary headquarters, from which may be directed 
the action of all cruisers detailed to the hunt, without tying 
up the state-wide radio system of fixed transmitting stations. 
If some town or community is put out of communication by 
fire, flood, riot, or other disaster, the truck can be driven into 
the area and serve as a two-way telephone channel from that 
area to any of the fixed stations. According to the Massachu- 
setts State Police, the equipment has proved its value on 
numerous occasions, including that of a disastrous flood in 
western Massachusetts, and also the well-known McMath kid- 
naping on Cape Cod in May, 1933. 

The police of foreign countries are also making effective 
use of this innovation in communication. In England, in both 
London and Nottingham, two-way communication equipment 
is employed. In Italy and other European countries as well, 
police two-way radio communication is rapidly assuming ma- 
jor importance in the control and direction of the force. 

The Massachusetts equipment is a portable affair, but pro- 
vision is made for its installation at certain points. Equipment 
is also now available which will permit broadcast from a mov- 
ing vehicle, thus eliminating the necessity of setting up an 
antenna and other equipment at a fixed location. Regardless 
of the equipment used, it is significant that this first method 
of two-way communication operation introduces what may 
be termed the mobile police station, and so temporarily, for 
the duration of the emergency, decentralizes control of the 

In the second method of operation, portable transmitters 
are installed in all patrol car units, or as many as practicable, 

182 Police Communication Systems 

making possible a complete two-way communication system 
between headquarters and all mobile units of the patrol sys- 
tem. The second system may be combined with the first, partic- 
ularly in emergency situations, in order to facilitate control 
of the force at the scene. 

One manufacturer has made available to police depart- 
ments a complete installation, comprising all transmitting 
and receiving equipment necessary for a two-way radio com- 
munication system. Main or headquarters station consists of 
a radio telephone transmitter and a suitable station receiver. 
Likewise, each of the cruising cars is equipped with both 
transmitter and receiver. All transmitters and receivers are 
adjusted to one frequency and are locked in that position. 
Each cruising unit in the city area is capable of receiving and 
sending messages from and to the central headquarters sta- 
tion, and communication can be established between moving 
cars over distances varying between one-half mile and two 
miles, depending upon the topographical features of the area. 
Communications are handled by what is known as the simplex 
method ; that is, a switch is provided so that the operator is 
in either a receiving or a sending position. This maybe further 
explained by reviewing the following example of a typical 
police call : 


Operators in all cars are normally required to have their 
equipment set in the receiving position, which enables them 
to hear all calls originating either from headquarters or from 
another car. The instant the operator in car No. 4 hears this 
call, he waits for the terminating designation, which is the 
letter "K," then throws his switch to the send position and 
replies as follows : 


This message when received at headquarters can be used 
either for checking position or for ascertaining the particular 
car that is nearest to the scene of action. Assuming that car 

Radio Patrol Operation 183 

No. 4 is nearest the scene, headquarters continues the dis- 
patching instructions, which may be of this nature : 


Car No. 4, while in motion toward the indicated location, 
acknowledges the order by sending : 


Upon reaching 10th Street and Avenue C, the officer finds 
that an ambulance is urgently needed, so car No. 4 calls head- 
quarters : 


Headquarters replies : 


The police ambulance and patrol wagon are at once dis- 
patched to the scene, and car No. 4, after taking care of its 
regular duties at the scene of the accident, reports back in 
service for further orders. 

The central-station transmitter employed for this installa- 
tion is similar to the high-frequency transmitter previously 
described. The mobile-station transmitter has a rated power 
output of 4.5 watts. Repeated experiments and practical 
working installations have shown that this power is adequate 
for almost all mobile applications, whether in police, aircraft, 
or marine work. The receiver is an extremely sensitive unit 
and provides loud-speaker reception, except in aircraft in- 
stallations, in which headphones are used in order to elimi- 
nate exterior noise. 

With slight changes, this equipment is standard for all po- 
lice applications. In automobile installations, the control unit, 
which embodies the loud-speaker, volume control, and con- 
trol switches, is mounted on the steering post of the car. This 
places the loud-speaker directly in front of the operator and 
gives him convenient access to all controls. The rest of the 
equipment is mounted in the rumble-seat compartment, in the 

184 Police Communication Systems 

trunk, or under the dashboard, depending upon the make and 
model of automobile in which the installation is to be made. 

A complete installation of the high-frequency two-way com- 
munication system can be made for a fraction of the cost of an 
ordinary one-way communication system operating on the 
usual police frequencies. Since the high-frequency spectrum 
is best adapted to two-way radio communication, manufac- 
turers provide complete installations, including the central- 
station transmitter, and portable transmitter and receivers 
for the mobile patrol units. The portable transmitter and car 
receiver are built into one compact unit. 

As an effective instrument for greater patrol efficiency, 
two-way radio communication is assured a brilliant future 
in police service. In a recent statement, an internationally 
known police authority commented upon this new facility as 
follows : "I have studied the operation of the two-way ultra- 
high-frequency radio telephone system. This equipment does 
everything that can be asked for by any police department. 
In my opinion, the use of two-way radio telephones is inevi- 
table in police work, and within a short time, the present one- 
way communication systems, which do not permit the police 
cars to talk back to headquarters, will become obsolete." Po- 
lice officials in various sections of the country are seriously 
considering its immediate adoption. Much developmental 
work has been carried on by the police themselves. By June 1, 
1937, the Federal Communications Commission had issued 
licenses for mobile or portable stations as shown by the list on 
pages 185-190. 


Secrecy is fundamental to the success of both military and 
police operations. Premature publication of details connected 
with criminal investigation has thwarted the police on occa- 
sions without number. When radio was adopted as an arm of 
police communication, secrecy received much serious consid- 
eration, since, in radio transmission, information is radiated 
to all points of the compass. Any person possessing a suitable 

Radio Patrol Operation 











City of Alameda 

Alameda, Calif 





City of Alhambra 

Alhambra, Calif 




City of Ann Arbor, Mich. . . 




City of Arcadia 

Arcadia, Calif 





City of Atlantic City 

Atlantic City, N.J... 




City of Auburn, N. Y 



City of Baltimore, Md 





City of Bay City, Mich 






City of Bayonne 

Bayonne, N.J 




City of Beaumont, Tex 




Borough of Belmar 

Belmar, N.J 




Bergen County, N.J 



City of Berkeley, Calif 




City of Bethlehem 

Bethlehem, Pa 





City of Beverly Hills 

Beverly Hills, Calif. . 




City of Birmingham, Ala. . 



Town of Bloomfield, Conn. 




City of Boston 

Boston, Mass. 



1 plus 



Town of Brookline 

Brookline, Mass 




City of Buffalo, N.Y 




City of Burlingame 

Burlingame, Calif. . . 




State of California Dept. 

Motor Vehicles, Calif. 

Highway Patrol 




City of Cambridge 

Cambridge, Mass. . . . 





City of Canton 

Canton, O 





City of Cape Girardeau. . . . 

Cape Girardeau, Mo. 





Carondelet Township 

Carondelet Town- 

ship, Mo 




City of Cedar Rapids, la. . 



City of Chicago Heights . . . 

Chicago Heights, 111. 





City of Cleveland 

Cleveland, O 




County of Cleveland, Okla. 




City of Clinton 

Clinton, S. C 




Town of Cohasset, Mass. . . . 




Borough of Collingswood . . 

Collingswood, N.J... 





County of Contra Costa. . . 

Martinez, Calif 





Township of Cranford 

Cranford, N.J 




City of Cranston, R.I 


City of Dallas, Tex 




Town of Darien 

Darien, Conn 





City of Dayton O 




Borough of Deal 

Deal, N.J. 





City of Dearborn 

Dearborn, Mich 




* (1) 30100, 33100, 37100, 40100. 
(2) 30100. (3) 33100. (4) 37100. (5) 40100. 
(6) 30100, 33100, 37100, 40100, 86000, to 400000, 401000 and above. 


Police Communication Systems 











City of Des Moines, la 




City of Detroit 

Detroit, Mich 




Metropolitan Police Dept., 

District of Columbia. . . . 



County of Douglas, Kan. . . 




Dupage County 

Wheaton, 111 





Town of Eastchester 

Eastchester, N. Y... . 





City of East Orange 

East Orange, N. J 





City of Elgin 

Elgin, 111 





City of Elizabeth 

Elizabeth, N.J 





City of Elmhurst 

Elmhurst, 111 




City of El Paso, Tex 






City of Enid 

Enid, Okla 





City of E vanston 

E vanston, 111 






Evansville, Ind 





City of Everett, Mass 

Portable- mobile 




City of Fall River, Mass. . . . 






Borough of Fan wood, N. J. 




City of Flint, Mich 






State of Florida. State 

Road Dept 




City of Fresno, Calif 



4, 5 


Incorporated village of 

Garden City 

Garden City, N.Y... 





City of Gary 

Gary, Ind 





Town of Greenburgh 

Greenburgh, N. Y. . . 





City of Grosse Pointe 

Grosse Pointe. Mich. 





Township of Grosse Pointe 

Grosse Pointe, Mich. 





City of Hamilton 

Hamilton, O 





City of Hammond 

Hammond, Ind 





City of Harrisburg 

Harrisburg, Pa 





Town of Harrison 

Harrison, N.Y 





City of Hartford 

Hartford, Conn 





City of Highland Park 






Town of Hingham 

Hingham, Mass 





City of Houston 

Houston, Tex 





Town of Hull 

Hull, Mass 





City of Jersey City, Dept. 

of Public Safety 

Jersey City, N. J 



1, 2, 3, 



City of Joliet 

Joliet, 111 





City of Kansas City 

Kansas City, Kan... . 




City of Kansas City, Mo 





Borough of Kenilworth, 111. 





Village of Kenilworth 

Kenilworth, 111 




(1) 30100, 33100, 37100, 40100. 

(2) 30100. (3) 33100. (4) 37100. (5) 40100. 

(6) 30100, 33100, 37100, 40100, 86000, to 400000, 401000 and above. 

Radio Patrol Operation 











City of Kokomo, 111 





Department of Metropoli- 

tanPolice, Lafayette, Ind. 






Lake County Sheriff's Of- 

fice, City of Lake Forest, 










City of Lasalle 

Lasalle, 111 




County of Lasalle, 111 






City of Lawrence 

Lawrence, Kan 




City of Leavenworth, Kan. 






City of Long Beach 

Long Beach, Calif.... 





City of Long Branch, 

Dept. of Public Safety. . . 

Long Branch, N.J... 





Borough of Longport 

Longport N J. 




City of Los Angeles, Calif. . 





Sheriff's Department, Los 

Angeles County, Calif... 







City of Manchester 

Manchester, N. H. . . . 




Commonwealth of Massa- 

chusetts, Dept. of Pub- 

lic Safety 





Metropolitan District Com- 

mission of the Common- 

wealth of Massachusetts . 

Boston, Mass 





City of Medford, Mass 





City of Merced, Police 


Merced, Calif 




City of Miami, Fla 






City of Miami Beach 

Miami Beach, Fla 





Township of Millburn 

Millburn, N.J 





City of Modesto 

Modesto, Calif 





City of Monroe 

Monroe, Mich 





City of Monrovia, Police 


Monrovia, Calif 





Town of Morristown 

Morristown, N.J 





City of Muskegon, Mich 





City of Nashville 

Nashville, Tenn 



City of New Brunswick, N.J. 





City of New London, Conn. 




City of New York 

New York, N.Y 




Borough of North Plainfield 

Plainfield, N.J 




Town of Norwood 

Norwood, Mass 




Town of Nutley Police 


Nutley N.J. 




(1) 30100, 33100, 37100, 40100. 

(2) 30100. (3) 33100. (4) 37100. (5) 40100. 

(6) 30100, 33100, 37100, 40100, 86000, to 400000, 401000 and above. 


Police Communication Systems 





N umber 






Village of Oak Park, 111 
City of Oceanside 
State of Ohio 
City of Oklahoma City, 
County of Oklahoma, Okla. 
City of Omaha, Neb 
City of Ontario, Calif., 
Police Dept 

Oceanside, Calif 















County of Orange, Calif.. . . 
City of Ottawa 
Palm Springs Police 
Protection Dist 
City of Park Ridge 
City of Pasadena, Calif., 
Police Dept. 

Ottawa, 111 

Palm Springs, Calif. . 
Park Ridge, 111 











Peoria Police Dept 
City of Peru 
City of Petal uma 
City of Philadelphia, Pa. . . 
City of Phoenix, Ariz., 
Police Dept 
City of Piedmont 
City of Piedmont 

Peoria, 111 
Peru, 111 
Petaluma, Calif 

Piedmont, Calif 











City of Plainfield 
Town of Plymouth Police 
City of Pontiac 
City of Port Jervis, N. Y. . . 

Plainfield, N.J 

Plymouth, Mass 
Pontiac, Mich 







City of Portland, Ore., 
Dept. of Public Safety 





City of Poughkeepsie.N.Y. 
Borough of Princeton 
City of Providence, R.I 
City of Quincy Police Dept. 
City of Racine Police Dept. 
City of Rah way 

Princeton, N.J 

Quincy, Mass 
Racine, Wis 
Rah way N.J. 





City of Raleigh 

Raleigh, N.C 





Village of River Forest 
City of Rochester 
CityofRockford, 111... .. 

River Forest, 111 
Rochester, Minn 





Rockland County 
Borough of Roselle 

New City, N. Y 
Roselle N.J. 






Village of Rye 

Rye, N. Y. 



(1) 30100, 33100, 37100, 40100. 

(2) 30100. (3) 33100. (4) 37100. (5) 40100. 

(6) 30100, 33100, 37100, 40100, 86000, to 400000, 401000 and above. 

Radio Patrol Operation 













City of Sacramento, Calif., 
Police Dept 
City of Saginaw, Mich 
City of St. Charles Police 

St. Charles, Mo. 








City of St. Joseph 
St. Louis Metropolitan 
Police Dept 

St. Joseph, Mo 






City of Salem 
City of Salisbury 
Salt Lake City Corporation 
Town of San Anselmo 
City of San Bernardino, 
City of San Buenaventura, 

Salem, Mass 
Salisbury, N. C 

San Anselmo, Calif. 







City of San Diego Calif 





City of San Gabriel 
City of San Mateo 

San Gabriel, Calif.... 
San Mateo, Calif. 






City of Santa Barbara 
City of Santa Rosa 
Town of Scituate 
City of Scranton Police 

Santa Rosa, Calif.... 
Scituate, Mass 

Scranton, Pa. 








Town of Secaucus 
Town of Sharon 

Secaucus, N.Y 
Sharon, Mass. 





City of Signal Hill 

Signal Hill, Pa. 


4 5 



City of Sioux Falls 

Sioux Falls, S. D.. 


7 5 



City of Spokane 
City of Springfield 
City of Springfield 
City of Springfield 

Springfield, 111 
Springfield, Mass. . . . 
Springfield, O 






City of Streator 

Streator, 111 





City of Syracuse, N. Y., 
Dept. Public Safety 
City of Tacoma, Wash., 
Police Dept 






City of Tampa ,Fla 
City of Terre Haute 
Citv of Trenton 

Terre Haute, Ind 
Trenton, N. J 




City of Tulsa 





Turlock Police Dept 
City of Tyler 

Turlock, Calif 
Tyler, Tex 
Union N. J. 



7 5 



City of Union City 

Union City, N.J 




(1) 30100, 33100, 37100, 40100. 

(2) 30100. (3) 33100. (4) 37100. (5) 40100. 

(6) 30100, 33100, 37100, 40100, 86000, to 400000, 401000 and above. 


Police Communication Systems 












CityofUtica N.Y. 



2 3 


City of Ventnor City 
Borough of Verona 
City of Visalia 
City of Waukegan 
Town of Westfield 
Town of West New York . . . 
City of Wheaton 

Ventnor City, N. J... 
Visalia, Calif 
Waukegan, 111 
Westfield, N.J 
West New York, N.J. 
Wheaton, 111. 





City of Wheeling 

Wheeling, W. Va. . . 




City of Whiting 

Whiting, Ind 



City of Wichita, Kan 
City of Wichita Falls Tex 




2 5 


City of Williamsport 
Township of Woodbridge. . 
City of York Pa 

Williamsport, Pa 
Woodbridge, N.J.... 




Ypsilanti Police Dept. 

Ypsilanti, Mich. 



* (1) 30100, 33100. 37100, 40100. 
(2) 30100. (3) 33100. (4) 37100. (5) 40100. 
(6) 30100, 33100, 37100, 40100, 86000, to 400000, 401000 and above. 

receiver might listen to police broadcasts. The probability 
that criminals would exploit this opportunity to their advan- 
tage was obvious. 

In the early use of radio in law enforcement, many police 
officials viewed the problem with anxiety. At the 1924 conven- 
tion of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, a 
committee was appointed to prepare a suitable code for police 
use, in order that information might be transmitted without 
the possibility of its being intercepted and used for criminal 

The story has been frequently told of an apartment-house 
burglar in Chicago who had taken the precaution to tune the 
receiver in the apartment to the police broadcast frequency. 
Neighbors reported to the police their suspicions of a bur- 
glary and the radio dispatcher immediately went on the air 
with an alarm broadcast, "Burglar operating in apartment 
on sixth floor at 5364 Main Street," and ordered squad cars 
to the scene. Hearing the message, the burglar is said to have 

Radio Patrol Operation 191 

written a note of thanks for the warning, pinned it on the 
radio, and made a leisurely departure before the officers ar- 

The police were hard pressed for a solution to this apparent 
problem. Some departments began their radio operations with 
the use of telegraphic radio transmission instead of voice 
broadcast. This method is still employed in a large degree in 
foreign police radio systems, particularly in Europe, where 
the patchwork of international boundary lines conspires to 
make greater the need for secrecy. 

In addition to the secrecy inherent in a coded message, there 
were other advantages in the use of a radio telegraph trans- 
mitter. Telegraphy is more accurate than telephony. A word 
written down, as it invariably is with telegraphy, usually has 
only one meaning ; in a telephonic message, two words sound- 
ing alike may carry different meanings. The same difficulty 
applies to numerals, as, for example, in transmitting an auto- 
mobile license number or a street address. With telegraphy, 
the operator has a definite and continual check on a plain lan- 
guage message as he writes it down. In telephony it is often 
necessary to spell difficult words letter by letter. Nine times 
out of ten, for example, the word "ink" will not be understood 
unless sent in the following manner : "I" for Isaac ; "N" for 
Nellie ; "K" for King. Further, with a given total power in- 
put, the cost of telephone transmission, which possesses only 
25 per cent of the range of a telegraph transmitting station, 
would be 20 per cent higher than that of the telegraph trans- 
mission. The maintenance cost of a telegraph transmitter is 
also somewhat lower than that of the telephone set, since the 
latter requires more complicated apparatus. 

Telegraphy thus has several advantages over speech broad- 
cast ; nevertheless, voice transmission, so far as police service 
is concerned, possesses the cardinal virtues of simplicity and 
speed in actual operation, and it has become the universal 
practice in this country to use speech broadcast in the control 
of radio patrol cars. 

Secrecy obtainable in voice broadcast. Any form of com- 

192 Police Communication Systems 

munication is adaptable to code methods. In police service, it 
is a simple matter to code streets, numbers, crime classifica- 
tions, and other information so as to avoid detection. Several 
departments have developed suitable codes for this purpose. 
In 1933, the city of Milwaukee had three milk strikes. The 
seriousness of the situation may be appreciated when it is 
realized that Milwaukee receives from 550 to 600 truckloads 
of milk daily from the surrounding territory. It was found 
that strikers were equipped with short-wave receivers tuned 
to the police frequency and this, according to the sheriff, made 
it very difficult to cope with the situation in the first strike. 
In the second and third strikes, a code was used, based on a 
numerical assignment to strategic highway points. The num- 
bers were reversed daily and the necessary secrecy in messages 
to deputy sheriffs patrolling the highways was successfully se- 
cured. Thus far, however, the use of the code system has been 
rather limited because there is a small additional interval of 
lost time in the coding and decoding of messages. To that 
degree, coding defeats the all-important purpose of a police 
radio system, namely, the reduction of delay. In an emer- 
gency, time is the vital factor and no operation should be ad- 
mitted into the communication procedure which increases the 
operating-time interval. 

For the solution of this problem, should it eventually 
assume serious proportions, the police are depending upon 
the radio engineer. In the process of transmission, it is possi- 
ble to transpose and alter current values from the speech 
input system and modulation stage so that the message will 
be unintelligible when received with an ordinary receiver, 
even though tuned to the carrier frequency. This method is 
sometimes referred to as "scrambling" and involves the use 
of a specially designed receiver, rather elaborate and costly 
in construction and installation. Both military authorities 
and the police have thus far found this solution impractical. 

Virtually absolute secrecy in voice broadcast may be ob- 
tained through the use of a transmitter in which a low radio 
frequency is impressed on the carrier wave, resulting in a het- 

Radio Patrol Operation 193 

erodyne effect. The beat frequency is then modulated by the 
regular speech input system. In other words, the transmitter 
continues to operate on its assigned frequency of, say 2,422 
kilocycles per second, in accordance with the Federal license 
authorizing its operation. The licensed carrier frequency, 
however, is not modulated directly by the energy received 
from the speech input system ; on the contrary, it is affected 
by a superimposed lower radio frequency resulting in a heter- 
odyne beat note or secondary carrier wave which carries the 
audio frequency variations. This is known as the double mod- 
ulation system, and it is impracticable, if not altogether im- 
possible, for an outside receiver to detect the conversation ; 
the receiver may tune in on the primary carrier frequency, 
as in ordinary reception, but for all practical purposes the 
speech modulation is inaccessible. Police cars may receive the 
conversation without difficulty if equipped with proper re- 
ceiving apparatus. According to military authorities, one of 
the surprising by-products of this system is the almost com- 
plete absence of static and other interference usually encoun- 
tered in radio reception. Here again, however, elaborate and 
costly receiving equipment is required. 

It is believed, nevertheless, that the engineering approach 
to the problem of secrecy offers greater promise than any 
other method, so far as the control of police patrol cars is con- 
cerned. Police communication officers interested in this phase 
of police broadcast should not overlook the resources and ac- 
complishments of the United States Signal Corps in this field. 
With respect to both 'code and specially designed equipment, 
this force of able men has made many significant contribu- 
tions to secret communication. 

Secrecy not absolutely essential. So far as the records in- 
dicate, only in rare and isolated instances has the absence of 
secrecy in police broadcast defeated the purposes of police 
radio patrol. Some departments are of the opinion that sys- 
tems providing a measure of secrecy are desirable if they are 
mechanical in principle, rather than patterned along code 

194 Police Communication Systems 

However, there is a growing sentiment among police offi- 
cials generally that the number of times that police transmis- 
sions are used for improper purposes is far outweighed by the 
salutary effect of widespread reception by the general public. 
In support of the opinion that secrecy in police broadcast 
is not a pressing problem at the present time, it should be 
pointed out that public reception of crime alarms has given 
the community a new conception of the police department, 
its responsibilities and its operation. A collateral result has 
been a marked increase in the number of persons reporting 
crimes and other irregularities to the police, who would other- 
wise have kept silent. Many police officials are inclined to 
regard this situation as decidedly advantageous to the police 

In view of the revolutionary changes that occasionally take 
place almost overnight in radio equipment and technique, it 
is entirely possible that new uses and applications in the po- 
lice field will create a greater future need for communication 
secrecy. Conceivably, changes in the conditions affecting law 
enforcement may also bring this about. With the demand, 
however, will come an engineering solution to the problem 
which will afford the secrecy that may be necessary to defeat 
criminal detection of the police message. 


Manufacturers of motorcycles in this country have kept 
abreast of the times in developing radio receiving equipment 
which could be operated successfully on both solo motorcycles 
and side-car machines. With the side-car or tandem arrange- 
ment the receiver is usually mounted in the side car just to 
the rear of the passenger's seat cushion. The loud-speaker unit 
is installed directly on the tank of the motorcycle between 
the handle bars, so that its volume is directed toward the 
driver. On the solo machine, the receiver is mounted on a 
luggage carrier to the rear of the driver. 

Motorcycle radio equipment. Standard automobile receiv- 
ers with slight modifications may usually be adapted to use 

Radio Patrol Operation 195 

on motorcycles, although manufacturers are now placing on 
the market receiving equipment specifically designed for mo- 
torcycle installations. Clear daylight reception at speeds of 
from thirty to forty miles per hour, within a radius of from 15 
to 20 miles of a 400-watt station, is regular performance. With 
a less powerful station, the effective service radius is natur- 

Motorcycle for police use, equipped with a short-wave radio receiving set. 

ally somewhat reduced. At many stations, satisfactory day- 
light reception has been obtained over distances of 50 miles 
or more. With this equipment, broadcast can easily be heard 
above the noise of downtown traffic. 

A few of the departments employing radio-equipped motor- 
cycles in patrol operations are Des Moines, Iowa ; Davenport, 
Iowa ; Milwaukee City and County, Mich. ; Omaha, Neb. ; San 
Francisco, Calif.; Dallas, Tex.; Fort Worth, Tex.; Waco, 
Tex. ; Beaumont, Tex. ; El Paso County, Tex. ; Birmingham, 
Ala. ; Santa Barbara, Calif. ; Arizona Highway Patrol, Wash- 
ington State Patrol, and Kansas City, Mo. 

196 Police Communication Systems 

In most of these cities, radio-equipped motorcycles supple- 
ment the work of the regular radio patrol cars. As a rule, the 
area is divided into motorcycle patrol zones, with one machine 
assigned to each zone. The primary duties of radio motor- 
cycle patrols are the observation of traffic and the investiga- 

Radio-equipped motorcycle and side-car unit with armored construction. 
Shields fold down while officers are on patrol duty. Note handles which 
may be pulled quickly to snap shields into place. Shields are equipped 
with bulletproof glass and provided with portholes for barrels of re- 
volvers or shotguns. 

tion of all automobile accidents. In one city, two machines are 
assigned exclusively to what is known as the Wreck Investi- 
gation Squad. Motorcycle officers are also frequently used 
in crime emergencies where a rapid concentration of police 
strength is required. 


The strategic value of the airplane in police service is easily 
recognized. As a speedy observation and pursuit unit, it pro- 
vides the police with a new force in the detection and sup- 

Radio Patrol Operation 197 

pression of crime. The possibility of aerial police was first 
officially recognized in June of 1914, when Chief C. E. Se- 
bastian, then Chief of Police at Los Angeles, Calif., recom- 
mended, on the floor of the twenty-first annual convention of 
the International Association of Chiefs of Police, that the use 
of airplanes be extended to police service in both urban and 
rural areas. He drew attention to the performance of the 
United States marines and soldiers at Vera Cruz, Mexico, a 
short time before, in which their aerial units were employed 
with telling effect. Airplanes dispatched from Vera Cruz cir- 
cled over the camp of the Mexican Federals, photographed 
them and their entrenchments, obtained valuable and accu- 
rate maps of roads, trails, and streams, and returned safely 
to headquarters, all within a short period of time. Giving his 
recommendations a local application, he cited two California 
instances wherein police planes would have been of great as- 
sistance to the police and the sheriff's men in the pursuit of 
bandits. In one instance, the bandits escaped into the desert 
and were captured after three days ; in the other, they were 
never caught. In both affairs, the use of the airplane would 
almost certainly have assured speedy capture. 

In 1914, communication was very different from communi- 
cation in 1925. Chief Sebastian was hard-pressed for some 
form of communication between the plane and the ground 
force. In signaling to and from mobile units at that time, some 
type of visual or audible system was necessary. With the tele- 
phone and telegraph, both sending and receiving terminals 
were anchored to fixed points, with land wires as the trans- 
mitting medium. E/adio was just beginning its spectacular 
career of development in military service at the outbreak of 
the World War, and had not yet reached the stage where com- 
munication with mobile units was a practical affair. The Chief 
summed up the communication problem with the statement : 
"With the wigwag or other signaling device he [the aviator] 
could easily communicate with pursuers trailing a fugitive 
along the highways or streets, and effectively direct their 

198 Police Communication Systems 

Today, radio telephone conversation between planes, and 
between plane and ground force, either at fixed points or in 
cruising cars, is an accomplished fact. In February, 1931, Ed- 
ward P. Mulrooney, Police Commissioner of New York City, 
was sitting in his office at headquarters. A. W. Wallander, a 
captain of police, was cruising over the city at an altitude of 
2000 feet. 

"What do you see ?" asked Mr. Mulrooney. 

"Miles of waterfront and plenty of motor traffic," replied 
Captain Wallander. "It is beginning to snow up here," he 

It was necessary to convince the officials gathered together 
for the demonstration that the Captain was not speaking over 
conventional telephone lines. The experiment gave official 
sanction to the already established fact, that a flying police- 
man might telephone to headquarters as easily as the police- 
man on the beat. 

Whatever the form of transportation, radio communica- 
tion, with its elimination of land wires, provides a flexible and 
sure means of contact with the mobile unit. For several years, 
two-way radio telephone has been employed for dispatching 
and directing the movements of mail and passenger planes. 
With respect to the engineering problems, model equipment 
is now available for two-way communication with all aircraft. 
Radio transmitters and receivers for use in aircraft have been 
developed by several manufacturers. 

Since in air-mail and passenger service, continuous two- 
way communication at all times is required and since the prin- 
cipal airports of the United States are about 200 miles from 
each other, a reliable communication range of about 100 miles 
is required of equipment designed for aircraft service. Range 
of this distance can be obtained through the use of ground- 
station transmitters of at least 400 watts power and aircraft 
transmitters of at least 50 watts power, both completely mod- 
ulated. In radio telegraphy, because of the greater ease with 
which code messages can be received through static, noise, 
and other interference, 200 watts of power is sufficient for 

Radio Patrol Operation 199 

ground-station use and 20 watts for aircraft transmitters. Re- 
cent developments in high-frequency radio communication 
equipment will undoubtedly result in a substantial decrease 
in the power required at both the fixed and the mobile aerial 

Modern conditions confronting the police have opened up 
a promising opportunity for the radio-equipped airplane in 
police service. Mobs and other large-scale movements in a city 
can be watched and the operations of the police directed in 
accordance with reports from aircraft observers who have the 
advantage of a bird's-eye view. Problems that involve the reg- 
ulation and control of traffic in large cities, when seen in broad 
perspective more readily lend themselves to intelligent solu- 
tion. In the pursuit of escaping fugitives, Chief Sebastian's 
dream becomes a reality, for officers cruising overhead at 
from eighty-five to two hundred miles an hour may converse 
directly with the ground force and effect a rapid concentra- 
tion of motor patrol units at crucial points. Augmented and 
equipped with powerful searchlights, aerial observation be- 
comes almost as practical by night as during the day. In times 
of disaster, the radio-equipped plane has no competitor in 
making a swift and accurate survey of the territory affected. 
The observer, constantly in direct two-way communication 
with headquarters, through his reports and instructions pro- 
vides an intelligent basis that makes possible the most effec- 
tive distribution of the force and its equipment. 

The New York City Police Department now has an organ- 
ized police air force, and the departments of many other cities 
are prepared to place observers in the air at a moment's no- 
tice. The airplane is rapidly coming within the price range of 
the automobile and the time is not far distant when the cost 
of a flying unit suitable for police work will be comparable to 
that of a satisfactory motor car. This will be an important 
factor in extending its sphere of practical usefulness in police 

Where departments are unable at the present time to pur- 
chase and maintain this type of equipment, arrangements 

200 Police Communication Systems 

may easily be made in advance for its use in emergencies. Air- 
ports are so numerous today as to be almost without number. 
Virtually every city in the country has within or near its 
boundaries one or more municipal or commercial landing 
fields, where will be found every type of flying equipment. 
Police departments, particularly in the larger communities, 
should undertake negotiations with the owners of radio- 
equipped planes, so that one or more units may be pressed 
into service without delay when the occasion arises. The 
greater number of our police departments already include 
among their personnel, officers who are licensed pilots and 
experienced observers. All departments should have one or 
more such officers. 

In the radio control of police boats, no serious engineering 
problem is presented. Two-way radio communication with 
vessels at sea was a practical affair even before 1910, and mari- 
time radio communication has now for some time been an 
accomplished fact. In cities situated near large harbors, riv- 
ers, or lakes, where fast boats afford the criminal additional 
avenues of operation and escape, suitably equipped police 
boats are maintained. These craft are in constant communica- 
tion with headquarters and are therefore immediately avail- 
able for any emergency service. Radio installations aboard 
police boats are of course governed by maritime regulations, 
which apply to the use of radio on any vessel afloat. In New 
York Harbor, San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound, and numer- 
ous other places, the radio-equipped police boat is daily per- 
forming a distinct service in law-enforcement activities. 


It is difficult to consider the remarkable strides of police 
communication in the past six years without realizing the 
astonishing influence that radio communication has already 
exerted upon modern patrol methods and technique in a re- 
markably short time. It cannot be doubted that further sig- 
ficant advances in the radio control of patrol operation are to 
be expected in the near future. 

Radio Patrol Operation 201 

Fundamental research of all types is moving forward. The 
abstract discovery of today is the practical contribution of 
tomorrow. The basic science of electromagnetic radiation and 
the dependent applied science and technique of radio com- 
munication are likely to undergo even more notable develop- 
ments. Radio communication has not yet reached the peak 
of its power or usefulness. 

At the present time, many new devices and methods stand 
at the threshold of practical communication in police service. 
Reduction in the size and weight of transmitters and receiv- 
ers has made it possible for the patrolman to include his radio, 
along with baton, revolver, flashlight, and handcuffs, as part 
of his personal equipment. In England, the individual officer 
is now equipped with a transmitting and receiving equipment 
that is variously known as the "Sam Browne," or the portable 
or pocket radio. Several departments in this country are now 
experimenting with it. 

Development of the English portable transmitter and re- 
ceiver for this purpose is credited to H. W. Adey, a London 
radio expert. The combined equipment is no larger than a 
small lantern and weighs less than five pounds. A hook is pro- 
vided on which to sling the apparatus from the officer's belt. 
Comprising a two-tube transmitting and receiving set, the 
equipment is said to have an effective service radius of from 
ten to twenty miles. The loud-speaker unit is built into the 
officer's helmet and is connected with the receiver by a flexible 
wire, inconspicuously placed. The loud-speaker is a unique 
affair, in that audible reception of messages is conveyed by 
vibrations through the skull instead of through air as the 
immediate transmitting medium. The equipment is battery- 
operated from a 45-volt unit, which has been reduced to a 
size somewhat smaller than the open hand. 

In England, also, W. L. P. Dean has perfected a pocket 
radio receiver weighing only 1 pound 8 ounces and measuring 
6 by 4 by 1 inch, which is designed to fit easily into an ordi- 
nary uniform pocket. Successful tests were recently con- 
ducted with this equipment at Brighton, England, in the 

202 Police Communication Systems 

presence of Mr. Charles Griffin, Chief Constable, Mr. Dean, 
the inventor, and P. C. Redgrave, of the Brighton force, who 
was formerly a radio operator at sea. Messages sent out in 
ordinary speech from a transmitting station at the eastern 
end of the Brighton front were clearly heard five miles away. 
The success which has attended these and other tests of port- 
able radio equipment presage the introduction of this new 
form of radio reception on a wider scale. Thus equipped, the 
foot patrolman is able to flash important crime information 
from his beat to headquarters and to cruising patrol units, 
who in turn may broadcast the information to other members 
of the force. Descriptions of wanted men, together with the 
details of the crime they have committed, could be circulated 
to policemen over a wide area within a few seconds after the 
crime is discovered. 

The possibilities of this new development may be better ap- 
preciated when it is realized that, up to the present time, all 
radio patrol equipment has been mounted in automobiles in 
such manner as to become essentially a part of the car itself, 
much the same as the speedometer, starter, and other acces- 
sories. It is therefore necessary that one or more officers re- 
main in the immediate vicinity of the machine at all times. In 
Los Angeles and other cities, where two officers are assigned 
to each patrol car, definite instructions are issued to the crew 
requiring the presence of at least one officer within earshot of 
the car's radio equipment during the entire tour of duty. In 
communities where the radio patrol car is manned by one of- 
ficer, the patrolman must frequently be beyond range of the 
loud-speaker when leaving the car for response to calls. With 
portable equipment, officers may dismount at will for tempo- 
rary patrol on foot, or to make assistance calls, yet remain in 
constant communication with headquarters. The individual 
policeman carries his communication system with him wher- 
ever he goes. 

Additional communication facilities in the patrol car, be- 
sides two-way radio contact, are an inevitable future develop- 
ment, since this unit is destined to assume to an increasingly 

Radio Patrol Operation 203 

greater degree the aspects and purposes of a mobile police 
station. A wide field is open for the installation and use of 
devices which automatically provide a written and visible 
record of the received message or communication in the pa- 
trol car. The cathautograph, a radio pen that broadcasts a 
written message, has already been developed. The sending ap- 
paratus is much like a slate upon which one writes with a 
pencil-shaped stylus. The written message is instantly re- 
ceived on a small phosphorescent screen which can be in- 
stalled on a desk, in an automobile, or in an airplane. 

The radio-controlled typewriter is now a practical instru- 
ment of communication. This device operates much the same 
as the teletypewriter, with the exception that land wires are 
eliminated and the ether becomes the transmitting medium. 
With the radio typewriter, it would be possible to broadcast 
the license number and description of a stolen car, for ex- 
ample, with the assurance that it would be received simul- 
taneously in typewritten form by any number of patrol cars. 
Selective devices may also be provided so that messages may 
be received by one or more cars to the exclusion of all others. 
This instrument will undoubtedly be so simplified and re- 
duced in cost that its use in patrol operations will f ollow as a 
matter of course. 

Telephoto and television are both awaiting opportunity for 
more extensive use in police service. Ships at sea now receive 
the daily newspapers in facsimile by these methods. Weather 
charts of the North Atlantic are broadcast to navigating offi- 
cers at frequent intervals. Recently an entire copy of a tabloid 
newspaper was flashed across the Atlantic by means of fac- 
simile apparatus. This type of equipment has been installed 
in army planes for the purpose of sending maps and other 
pictorial information without the necessity of the plane's 
returning to its base. The possibilities of these new develop- 
ments in communication stagger the imagination. Neverthe- 
less, modern communities may look forward to the early 
application of many of them in advanced patrol operations. 




THE RECENT GROWTH of regional police coordination in the 
United States rests upon two sets of conditions, involving 
(1) communication policy and (2) the complex police prob- 
lems associated with the detection and suppression of modern 

The limited number of radio frequency channels available 
for police use has made necessary an extension of the oper- 
ating scope and service of individual transmitting stations. 
A Bulletin of the Federal Communications Commission, re- 
lating to this matter, states in part : 

The specific frequencies available for use by police radio stations are 
set out in the Commission's Rules and Regulations. As there are only 
eight frequencies available, the Commission is confronted with the neces- 
sity of providing for their greatest possible use. 

After considerable study, it was decided that the entire country should 
be divided into zones, and that all cities within a zone should share the 
use of the same frequency. In this way it is possible to duplicate fre- 
quencies in different zones, and at the same time provide for an efficient 
system of operation within each zone. 

There is a belief on the part of some police administrations that a 
separate frequency should be assigned to each municipality. With only 
eight frequencies available, such a system could not possibly be as 
efficient as the zone system of allocation. 

For example, in one metropolitan area, there are nineteen cities lo- 
cated in eighty districts, nearly all of which are within twenty miles 
of the center of the district. Therefore, if different frequencies were 
assigned to each municipality, the adjacent police departments would 
lose the advantage of being notified of crimes committed in neighboring 
cities, with a consequent delay in the apprehension of criminals who suc- 
ceeded in making their escape from one city to another. 

Cities in areas such as that referred to above are encouraged to organ- 
ize the metropolitan district type of radio service. 

It is known that some applicants desire a metropolitan area system 
of communication, but cannot obtain agreements from all the cities 


The Regional Communication System 205 

within their area. The Commission regrets that it cannot offer any im- 
mediate solution to such problems. 

The Commission's plan must provide for the granting of radio facili- 
ties to every police department, regardless of whether or not it may 
desire radio service at the present time. This latter aspect of the Com- 
mission's plan is often overlooked by applicants when applying for 
facilities. The fact that no other city in the vicinity of the applicant's 
city desires immediate radio service cannot be accepted as proof that a 
neighboring city will not subsequently apply for radio service. There- 
fore, exceptions to the rules cannot be authorized. 

In the interest of reduction of interference, an allocation of power 
based on population was selected in preference to an allocation based on 
the area to be served. Municipalities having large populations need more 
power than those of less populous areas because of the greater attenua- 
tion of the radiated energy due to building construction. It has been 
determined after careful study that most of the small municipalities 
which occupy greater geographical dimensions than some of the larger 
cities are not handicapped with the transmission difficulties usually pres- 
ent in the more populous districts. 

The amount of power that may be licensed is specified in Eule 329. 
Where two cr more cities desire to cooperate, the power is computed on 
the basis of the population of the entire area to be served. 

Power limitation is a function of the limited number of 
frequency channels which may be allotted for police use. The 
maximum amount of power that can be assigned to the respec- 
tive police stations is based upon the latest Census figures for 
cities or state subdivisions. 1 This power limitation is of course 
specifically designed to lessen interference on the available 
police frequency channels and permit a maximum geographi- 
cal distribution of licensed police transmitting stations. But 
this limitation resulted in the installation of transmitters of 
insufficient power to cover effectively the area to be served. In 
the average city of 85,000 to 100,000 population, it would be 
a rare engineering feat, indeed, to obtain adequate coverage 
with the 50-watt transmitter to which such a city is restricted. 
This condition, an outgrowth of frequency limitations, has 
led to the consolidation of service areas into regional systems 
of police radio communication. 

1 Power allocation tables may be obtained by addressing the Federal 
Communications Commission, Washington, D. C. 

206 Police Communication Systems 

At least three outstanding surveys have been conducted 
recently in the United States, in an effort to present the ad- 
vantages of regional coordination of police man power and 
equipment. Under the supervision of August Vollmer, former 
President of the International Association of Chiefs of Po- 
lice, David G. Monroe, 2 of the University of Chicago, made a 
study of the Chicago metropolitan area, analyzing the factors 
which indicated the desirability of a consolidation of the po- 
lice facilities in that area. Bruce Smith, 3 an able critic of 
police administration, recently prepared a regional police 
plan for Cincinnati and its environs, undertaken in the be- 
lief that police service in southwestern Ohio and northeast- 
ern Kentucky could be substantially improved by a program 
of joint action affecting all police units in the area surround- 
ing Cincinnati. A third survey 4 was completed in 1933 under 
the direction of the Sheriff's Office in Los Angeles County, as 
a basis for the formulation of a plan whereby the Los Angeles 
police transmitter might be used by all police units in the 
entire county. 

Mr. Smith showed that the very limited territorial juris- 
diction of police forces in the Cincinnati region often pre- 
vented effective police action, and that a sharp break with the 
past must some day be made if major improvements in service 
were to be realized. He pointed out that police protection that 
is now being provided by rural communities was established 
at a time when the most commonplace of modern facilities 
were not available. The area included in the Cincinnati sur- 
vey involved 6 counties, comprising 51 townships and 13 mag- 
isterial districts, with 12 cities and 65 villages superimposed 
upon them. Each of these governmental units maintains some 
sort of police establishment, so that in the whole region there 
are 147 police agencies, each independent of the others, and 
all of them overlapping more or less. They are distributed 

2 David G. Monroe, Chicago Regional Survey. 

3 Bruce Smith, A Eegional Police Plan for Cincinnati and Its En- 

* The Sheriff's Office., Los Angeles County, California, Los Angeles 
County Survey. 

The Regional Communication System 207 

ewer 2045 square miles of compact territory, with a total pop- 
ulation of almost 1,000,000 inhabitants. 

The Chicago metropolitan region is not composed of many 
huge and self-sufficient police forces, but is a great mass of 
698 relatively small units, independently operated, which 
singly are too often unable to provide the protection neces- 
sary in this modern era of crime. The need for scientific coor- 
dination of police activity in such a situation becomes vitally 
apparent. Municipal forces are of course responsible for the 
protection of the public welfare within the villages. State 
police have assumed this function on the highways, and the 
sheriff's deputies attempt to offer protection over an entire 
county that is outside of municipal limits. Park police and 
forest-preserve police have their individual functions. Thus 
police protection becomes characterized by the individuality 
of many small forces, each force attempting in its own way 
to meet its individual problems, and the region as a whole is 
without any general or comprehensive means of combating 
the crime within its borders. 

Within the boundaries of Los Angeles County lie forty- 
three incorporated cities and many areas in unincorporated 
territory which, because of density of population, present the 
aspect of cities, so far as police protection is concerned. Sev- 
eral of these cities and areas are contiguous and none of them 
is separated by more than six or seven miles from some other. 
It follows that a crime may be committed in one city and, 
since a speed of fifty miles an hour no longer attracts atten- 
tion on the highways, the criminal escaping in an automobile 
is in another city in ten minutes or less. Within an hour the 
offender may pass through several cities in the area. 

The Cincinnati survey showed that, although the 147 police 
agencies in that area were independent of one another in a 
political sense, they could readily be made interdependent in 
matters of routine and emergency police work. Thus, the city 
of Cincinnati, with its more extensive police facilities, can 
profit substantially from any plan which will make police in- 
formation and genera] information concerning crime through- 

208 Police Communication Systems 

out the area quickly available to its own police force. It can 
profit also from any means of rapid communication which 
may be set up whereby reports of offenses can be relayed to 
the most remote parts of the region. 

Of special significance would be the control of strategic 
points of egress from the area by making possible the direct 
observation of the various radial highways and railways in 
emergencies. The tangled skein of highways and railroads 
which begins in Cincinnati and spreads out into the surround- 
ing area is typical of the facilities that are at the disposal of 
the criminal in every section of the United States. In the Cin- 
cinnati region, all the main highways can be placed promptly 
under observation at twenty-three control points. Each rep- 
resents a place where some form of twenty-four-hour police 
service is available. The provision of direct communication 
lines to these twenty-three points would make possible the 
surveillance of all public and private highway traffic flowing 
over main arteries. Main railroad lines serving the region 
could also be placed under observation in emergencies. For 
the most part, such control points are the same as those pro- 
vided on highways, a total of twenty-eight being required to 
cover, in this Cincinnati region, the improved highways, rail- 
roads, and ferries taken together. 

The smaller communities may profit through coordination 
of their protective and investigating work with that of the 
metropolitan department. The latter can provide services in 
training, in criminal identification, in the operation of modus 
operandi systems, and can function as a communication cen- 
ter. All these are services which are now completely lacking 
in nearly all the other police agencies and which the smaller 
police forces, whether acting alone or collectively, could never 
hope to provide for themselves. 


Eegional coordination is in large part a function of com- 
munication facilities. At present, commercial telephone and 
telegraph lines represent the only quick method of commu- 

The Regional Communication System 209 

nication between separate and independent police units. Such 
facilities, however, merely tie together the headquarters offi- 
ces and do not immediately reach the patrolman on his beat. 
Long-distance telephone communication is a luxury for most 
of the small forces and the expense involved has handicapped 
its use. The Chicago survey revealed a typical situation. 

The Cook County highway sheriff's office force is the largest 
of all the sheriffs' police staffs and has been established pri- 
marily as a coordinating agency to assist citizens in their 
problems. The highway force is centered in three headquar- 
ters in the region, one at Morton Grove, one at Home wood, 
and another at Willow Springs. All three stations are within 
a radius of approximately fifteen miles from headquarters in 
Chicago. There is no way by which the three may keep in 
touch with one another, or with headquarters in Chicago, ex- 
cept by telephone. No private line exists, and so the ordinary 
pay-station telephone is used by the stations. A call from the 
Morton Grove station to Chicago costs fifteen cents, and a call 
from Homewood, twenty cents. The officer calling must pay 
telephone charges in advance. Owing to the rather peculiar 
financial status of the county, some of the men have not been 
reimbursed for several years for charges which they have 

It was also found that among municipal chiefs as well, 
there was a dearth of long-distance telephoning. Village coun- 
cils invariably frown upon large long-distance telephone bills. 
A village chief who incurred a toll bill of $1.20 was informed 
by council members that, unless he could be more careful with 
village funds, he would have to seek a new position. The data 
collected from village police chiefs brought out the fact that, 
in more than fifty departments, councils were constantly mak- 
ing some complaint concerning police expenses. Naturally, 
coordination between municipal police chiefs remains more 
or less a local matter; communication between far separated 
points rarely takes place except by letter. 

Even where coordination by telephone between closely ad- 
jacent points is attempted, the unavoidable delay is fatal to 

210 Police Communication Systems 

good police work. The police official in a given community 
must telephone to other police departments when broadcast- 
ing an alarm. After this time-consuming process has been 
completed, many minutes and perhaps hours may pass before 
the effective strength of the several police forces in the area is 
acquainted with the information. Meanwhile, a criminal has 
the choice of half a dozen or more excellent roads of escape, 
and this generally means that a police chief must call a dozen 
or more departments in the surrounding area in order to 
guard strategic highway control points. The perpetration of 
one bank robbery necessitated forty minutes of telephoning 
to inform the police officials within five miles of the crime. By 
the time half a dozen police departments were on the lookout, 
the robbers' car and its occupants were safely under cover 
twenty-five miles away. 

The Cincinnati survey directed attention to the speed and 
efficiency of the teletypewriter in police communication, and 
recommended the extension of the Cincinnati police teletype- 
writer service to the twenty-eight communities in that area. 6 
A typist seated in the police station at Cincinnati types the 
details of a gas-station robbery, the message being automati- 
cally recorded in printed form by receiving machines in all 
the stations in the region. Thus, accuracy of information is 
combined with the speed of the electric current, and an alarm 
may be spread over a wide territory within a few seconds. 

A few years before the Chicago survey was made, a step 
toward mechanical coordination was taken when a teletype 
hook-up was established between Chicago and three neighbor- 
ing cities, namely, Oak Park, Evanston, and Winnetka. Plans 
are now being considered to link the entire region in a tele- 
type network, through which seventy-two police forces in the 
area will be connected with the Chicago police department, 
and a switchboard in Chicago will make possible coordination 
between sheriff and municipal police. The ideal plan contem- 
plates the coalescing of the entire region in Indiana, Illinois, 
and Wisconsin, through the designation of the county seats as 

5 See Chapter VII, "The Police Teletype Network" (p. 242). 

The Regional Communication System 211 

the centers of the respective county police stations, each cen- 
ter being connected to Chicago by a direct trunk line. If a gas 
station has been held up in a small town in DuPage County, 
for example, that town will at once telephone the information 
to county headquarters, which in turn will teletype the in- 
formation to Chicago. From that point, of course, the alarm 
with pertinent description and information will be spread 
without loss of time throughout the entire area. If a bank 
robbery has been committed in Kane County, within a few 
seconds DuPage County officials can know of it and block 
every road leading from Kane County into Chicago. Thus 
will Chicago become the switchboard for the entire region. 

The teletypewriter is a remarkable medium for meeting the 
requirements of fast communication between police stations 
in the regional system. However, the station is merely a point 
of transfer for the crime report. It is when the individual 
patrolman has received the information and has taken up his 
post at a highway control point or other strategic place, that 
the regional machinery really begins to function in the emer- 
gency. Both the telephone and the teletypewriter are limited 
to communication between fixed stations. The radio, by elimi- 
nating the necessity for land wires as the transmitting me- 
dium, has provided the ideal link between the station and the 
mobile patrol force. 


One of the most important developments in the field of police 
radio has been the extension of the service area of the munici- 
pal police radio system to include adjacent jurisdictions. 
Under such an arrangement, a single police transmitter may 
be made to serve a dozen or more police departments within 
the area concerned. For example, the transmitting station of 
the Police Department at Berkeley, Calif., dispatches all 
broadcast traffic for police agencies in the counties of Ala- 
meda and Contra Costa, including all city police departments 
and sheriffs' offices. With proper telephone and teletype fa- 
cilities to expedite the receipt of calls from outside depart- 

212 Police Communication Systems 

merits, and a competent dispatching organization, effective 
and adequate communication is available for all mobile units 
in the two counties. 

The cost of radio transmitting equipment is another factor 
in the consolidation of radio operation. A modern police radio 
transmitter is a comparatively expensive instrument. Many 
police departments, particularly in the smaller communities, 
could ill afford such an expenditure. The installation of a 
central transmitter for the combined area is actually a step 
toward economy; for it is only necessary that outside depart- 
ments equip their cars with the necessary receiving appara- 
tus, and this is a comparatively inexpensive affair. As a rule, 
the central station makes no charge to the smaller community 
for the broadcast service, because of the benefits that accrue 
to the larger department in the increased police efficiency 
throughout the area. 

Experiments conducted by the Cincinnati Police Depart- 
ment indicated that police broadcasts sent out from that city 
could easily be received at all points within the police region. 
It was in August, 1930, that radio became possible as a new 
method of regional intercommunication in the Chicago area. 
Originally planned only as a means for directing the move- 
ments of the force within the city, the almost immediate ac- 
tion of neighboring towns has now made the radio station a 
regional coordinator. Within the short span of a year and a 
half, forty-one towns have radio-equipped cars cruising in 
the region. 

With its three transmitters, the Chicago Police Department 
now flashes signals to forces throughout the area. WPDC 
broadcasts to nineteen police departments to the west ; to the 
south and southwest, WPDB, the south-side station, sends out 
its messages to police forces in ten communities ; on the north 
side, WPDD keeps twelve communities in touch with events. 
From Lake Forest to the north and Harvey to the south near 
the Indiana border, and Villa Park far to the west, there is 
maintained a swift coordination of police strength in this 
area by day and by night. 

The Regional Communication System 213 

By June, 1930, only seven months after the installation, 
the number of regional broadcasts had jumped to 1345 for 
that month. Of this total, Evanston received 470, Oak Park 
212, Maywood 175, and River Forest 77. At the beginning of 
1931, sixty-six radio-equipped cars were operating in the 
region, exclusive of the city of Chicago. 6 

The organization of a police regional radio system has cer- 
tain legal aspects. Prior to an assignment of additional trans- 
mitting power on the basis of the increased population served, 
the Federal Communications Commission requires that all 
municipalities and jurisdictions represented in the total pop- 
ulation figure subscribe to written agreements or contracts 
covering the projected regional communication service. An 
essential part of the agreement is that all contracting parties, 
with the exception of the one obligated to supply broadcast 
service to the area, indicate their willingness to forego any 
future application to the Commission for the right to operate 
a transmitter. Thus, in return for the usual grant of increased 
power to the region, the Commission's problem of police 
frequency and power distribution is appreciably simplified 
through a reduction in the number of potential applicants 
for station licenses. Such agreements or contracts are further 
desirable with respect to the individual police forces con- 
cerned in the regional merger, since they are a record of the 
transaction and afford a stable and businesslike basis for the 
future operation of the system. 7 

Toward the close of 1937, approximately eighty-five such regional 
radio systems were in active operation in the United States. Among the 
stations serving a plurality of police forces were those of Atlanta, Ga. ; 
Beaumont, Tex.; Berkeley, Calif.; Buffalo, N. Y.; Chicago, 111.; Cin- 
cinnati, Ohio ; Cleveland, Ohio ; Dallas, Tex. ; Dayton, Ohio ; Denver 
Colo.; Detroit, Mich.; Flint, Mich.; Fresno, Calif.; Honolulu, T. H. 
Houston, Tex. ; Indianapolis, Ind. ; Kansas City, Mo. ; Kokomo, Ind. 
Lexington, Ky. ; Louisville, Ky. ; Milwaukee, Wis. ; Minneapolis, Minn. 
Oklahoma City, Okla. ; Omaha, Neb. ; Portland, Ore. ; Eichmond, Ind. 
Rochester, N. Y. ; St. Louis, Mo. ; St. Paul, Minn. ; Salt Lake City, Utah 
San Francisco, Calif. ; Sioux City, Iowa ; Syracuse, N. Y. ; Washington 
D. C. ; and Wichita, Kan. 

7 For specimen contracts, see Appendix 2, p. 489. 

214 Police Communication Systems 


One of the most immediate advantages of the regional com- 
munication system has been increased effectiveness of the 
police power in rural areas, because most of the regional sys- 
tems extend a broadcast service to members of the sheriff's 
force and to other agencies that are charged with the policing 
of those areas. This is extremely fortunate, since the large, 
sparsely settled sections lying outside the jurisdiction of mu- 
nicipal police forces have for the most part been left exposed 
to the incursions of criminals and other infractions of law 
and order. The scheme of police organization now obtaining 
in rural areas is often quite inadequate to meet modern re- 
quirements; but rural political subdivisions may minimize 
the effects of this condition by establishing rural patrols and 
bodies of criminal investigators, coordinated in action by 
means of the regional organization of communication facili- 
ties. If this work is well and thoroughly performed, the ab- 
surd patchwork of county, township, village, and city police 
forces will become less ineffective during the years that must 
yet pass before the whole medieval pattern is swept away and 
a more rational system substituted. 8 

The signs which point to this as an eventual development 
become increasingly clear. In Iowa and in Illinois a state- 
wide system of rural vigilantes has been organized, sig- 
nalizing, according to one commentator, the collapse of the 
sheriff-constable regime as a device for police protection. In 
many other states a movement is rapidly gaining headway to 
merge the smaller counties and towns so that a basis may be 
laid for governmental action along a wider front. State police 
forces are an accomplished fact. Everywhere is found a grow- 
ing recognition of the need for larger governmental units in 
order that more adequate police services may be organized. 

In 1932, the author made a questionnaire survey covering 
seventy-three counties and one state, and representing, in all, 
thirty-two states, for the purpose of ascertaining how far 

8 Bruce Smith, op. cit. 

The Regional Communication System 215 

communication facilities are employed in rural police service. 
In most of the states reporting, police protection in the rural 
areas outside the limits of incorporated cities and towns is 
given chiefly by the sheriff and his deputies. Some towns and 
townships have their own constables and a few states have 
state police organizations which police the rural areas, and 
the sheriffs cooperate as much as possible with these law-en- 
forcement agencies. 

The organizations through which the sheriffs meet their re- 
sponsibility for the maintenance of law and order and the 
apprehension of criminals fall roughly into three classes. In 
thirteen of the counties reporting, the sheriff and all his depu- 
ties gather at one central station, from which they respond to 
all calls. In twelve counties, part of the sheriff's force is sta- 
tioned in a central office, and the rest of the force is decen- 
tralized and scattered throughout the county. In some large 
counties, including Los Angeles and San Bernardino coun- 
ties, Calif., regular substations are maintained. In others, the 
paid full-time deputies are centralized in one station, and 
special deputies who may be paid for the time in which they 
actually perform police duties, or may not be paid at all, are 
scattered throughout the area. These special deputies look af- 
ter small matters that require attention and take charge of 
more important matters until the sheriff or his regular deputy 

As the rural law-enforcement agency, the sheriff does not, 
as a rule, depend entirely upon the resources of his own office. 
If constables are available in his county, and they usually are, 
the sheriff attempts to keep in close touch with them. In a few 
counties the constables are deputized and in one, Los Angeles, 
the constabulary is a regular part of the sheriff's office. The 
sheriffs also, as has been mentioned, make an effort to work 
in cooperation with the police departments of the cities and 
towns in their county, and keep in close touch with local state 
police organizations, if there are any, even using their 
communication facilities, as is done in New York. Even if the 
state police are only highway patrolmen, the sheriff usually 

216 Police Communication Systems 

cooperates with them ; a few sheriffs reported that the high- 
way police were deputized and took general charge in emer- 
gencies until a regular deputy arrived. 

In two states, Nebraska and South Dakota, there are state 
sheriffs who aid the local sheriff in meeting unusual prob- 
lems. Finally, in some states, especially in the Middle West, 
vigilante committees have been organized, usually as a pro- 
tection against bank bandits. These committees work in close 
cooperation with the sheriff and take orders from him. In 
some places the vigilance-committee members are deputized. 

The survey showed that the telephone is almost the sole 
instrument of rural communication. Through the telephone 
the sheriff receives calls for help, communicates with his depu- 
ties at home or at stations isolated from the central office, and 
receives calls and reports from deputies who are out on calls 
or on patrol. The telephone and the automobile are the two 
typical communication and transportation facilities of the 
rural police. The ordinary sequence of law enforcement in the 
county is the reception of a call coming into the sheriff's office 
over the telephone, and a response by the sheriff or his deputy 
in an automobile. 

A few sheriffs have made special arrangements with the 
telephone company for a more rapid handling of emergency 
police traffic. It is surprising that more sheriffs have not done 
so. The sheriff of Montgomery County, Ohio, in which Dayton 
is situated, has divided it into four zones. Through a prear- 
ranged plan, the telephone operators, on being given the num- 
ber of any of the four zones, promptly call all the deputies in 
that zone and connect them with the sheriff's office. In three 
counties in Iowa, the sheriffs have arranged with the tele- 
phone company that, when need arises, the telephone opera- 
tor shall mobilize the various vigilance committees in towns 
throughout the area, and put them in touch with the sheriff's 
office. In another county in Iowa, calls to and from the sheriff's 
office are given priority. 

The telephone is also the sole means employed by members 
of the sheriff's office to keep in touch with the central station 

The Regional Communication System 217 

when they are away on their duties. In some counties the 
sheriff requires his men to report regularly to the office when 
out on duty, using whatever public or private telephone is 
most conveniently available. Ordinarily, these are the public 
telephones in gasoline stations, restaurants, garages, and 
other similar places. In only one of the counties reporting, 
Fayette, Ohio, has a system of call boxes been installed for the 
use of these cruising deputies; this installation is a recent 
result of the Cincinnati regional police communication plan 
previously discussed. 

The teletypewriter is little used, apparently, by the sher- 
iffs of the United States. Only one sheriff of Los Angeles, 
Calif. reports the use of a teletype system for intracounty 
communication, direct teletype lines connecting his main of- 
fice in Los Angeles with the nine substations in the county. 
Only two states, Oregon and California, report connections 
between the sheriff's headquarters and the state teletype- 
writer systems. The sheriff of Lane County, Ore., stated that 
he was being connected with the Oregon state system, then 
in process of installation, and the sheriffs of twenty-one coun- 
ties in California reporting gave the information that they 
were either already connected with the state teletypewriter 
system, or had access to its facilities through some other office, 
or were planning to be connected. Only one of the six sheriffs 
from New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut 
who answered the questionnaire mentioned the use of the tele- 
typewriter systems with interstate connections. In the United 
States generally, the teletypewriter has not begun to reach its 
stride in the rural police communication scheme. 

Radio communication, the survey indicated, is rapidly be- 
coming of major importance in rural police protection. Most 
of the seventy-five or more regional radio systems now in op- 
eration provide for radio broadcast to the cars of sheriffs or 
county police. Several sheriffs reported the independent op- 
eration of their own transmitters, and others indicated an 
intention of installing their own equipment. Some of these 
radio-equipped cars are connected with a state radio system ; 

218 Police Communication Systems 

for example, those controlled by the sheriffs in Michigan, 
which has adopted a state police radio system by law. The 
Buckeye Sheriffs' Association of Ohio plans to install a state 
radio system similar to the Michigan network, and two Ohio 
sheriffs, of Montgomery and Clark counties, respectively, in- 
dicated keen interest in this development. The sheriff of Lane 
County, Ore., also stated that his state contemplated the in- 
stallation of a state radio system, in addition to the teletype 
system then being installed. 

Probably the most thoroughgoing study of the rural police- 
communication problem that has ever been made, was com- 
pleted in 1933 by the Sheriff's Office of Los Angeles. The 
results of this survey confirm present indications and defi- 
nitely point the way toward a growing use of radio-equipped 
patrol cars in rural areas. This survey further emphasizes 
the fact that, in the future development of regional police 
communication systems, full recognition must be given to the 
needs of the rural section. 

The size of the police problem facing the sheriff of Los An- 
geles County and the consequent need of an efficient system 
of communication, can be more easily understood if the to- 
pography of his territory is considered. Los Angeles County 
covers an area of 4115 square miles. Nearly one-half of the 
northern part is extremely mountainous, dry, and barren, 
and has few communities that are connected by good roads. 
On the west, the county is bounded by eighty miles of sea- 
coast, along which are scattered ten beach cities of vary- 
ing population, one of 50,000 and another of 150,000. In the 
southwestern part is the harbor district. To the east near the 
foothills are large residential sections through which run sev- 
eral main arterial highways leading eastward into the neigh- 
boring state of Arizona. The total population of the county 
in 1930 was 2,208,000, more than half of which is in the metro- 
politan area of the city of Los Angeles. Within the county 
are scattered forty-four incorporated cities with populations 
ranging from 2300 to more than 1,200,000. Of these forty- 
four cities, more than thirty are within a radius of approxi- 

The Regional Communication System 219 

mately twenty miles of the center of the city of Los Angeles. 

The population is mixed, the principal foreign nationals 
being Mexicans, Russians, Italians, and Japanese. The people 
engage in a variety of occupations, chief among which are 
farming and gardening, manufacturing, shipping, and oil 
production. The rapid growth of the county in recent years 
and its development in all lines of profitable activity, the 
constantly increasing population both American and for- 
eign, and the favorable climatic and other conditions for con- 
tinuous and easy movement back and forth within the county, 
have all presented crime possibilities and serious crime 

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office, at the time of the 
survey, had already been organized on a regional basis. A 
central division was placed in the city of Los Angeles, and 
nine substations were distributed in various sections of the 
county. These substations are the outposts of the sheriff's de- 
partment and through them communication is had with the 
citizens of the area. Through them, also, the greater number 
of crime reports are obtained and many of them investigated. 
The duties of the personnel of the substations include the 
patrolling of the area assigned to the station and the investi- 
gation of almost all the misdemeanor cases occurring, and of 
felony cases directly assigned to them by the central office. 

Since the general office, the chief administrative officers of 
the department, and the central record division are in Los 
Angeles, the principal communication problem of the sheriff's 
department was the devising of a system which would be a 
speedy and reliable communicating medium between the cen- 
tral station and the various subdivisions. For its communi- 
cation requirements, the Sheriff's Office relies primarily upon 
the teletypewriter system. This network consists of twenty- 
two machines, two of which are placed in each of the nine 
substations, and a main battery of four in the division of rec- 
ords and identification of the central office. The substation 
machines, which are equipped for both sending and receiving 
messages, are connected with the bureau by direct private 

220 Police Communication Systems 

telephone lines. Three of the main batteries in the record divi- 
sion are equipped for both sending and receiving messages 
from substations, and one, known as a broadcasting set, is 
connected with all stations through a specially arranged and 
constructed control board, making it possible to broadcast to 
any one or to all stations at the same time. 

That the teletype system has many marked advantages over 
other usual communication methods is amply demonstrated 
by the equipment in the Sheriff's Office. It is particularly 
adapted to the needs of substations in obtaining accurately 
such information as criminal records, automobile license num- 
bers, house numbers, and other concrete information from the 
central office, for the use of investigators. 

All reports required between the substations and the cen- 
tral office are speedily and accurately sent over the teletype 
machines with less labor than was formerly required for typ- 
ing the reports and mailing them. A general alarm may be 
broadcast to all stations over the system instantly ; if sent by 
telephone as in the past, it would take two men at least thirty 
or forty minutes to transmit it. Further, the teletypewriter 
permits substations to communicate with one another through 
the control board in the main office. Moreover, information 
sent by this means, being in print, is more accurate than in- 
formation transmitted by telephone ; also a permanent record 
of each communication is made. The sheriff's teletype system 
is connected with the California state network, and all im- 
portant messages received over the state-wide system are sent 
either to all substations or to those which might be particu- 
larly concerned. 

The telephone is still indispensable in the receiving of 
complaints and reports from citizens concerning matters of 
interest to the sheriff, and for all communication by the de- 
partment with outside persons. It is also a means of keeping 
in touch with the 152 constables who police the townships of 
the county. 

Rural sections in comparison with metropolitan areas pre- 
sent a wide divergence in patrol conditions. In the cities are 

The Regional Communication System 221 

to be found a more or less concentrated population, telephones 
that are readily accessible at all hours, relatively small patrol 
areas with consequent short distances to the scenes of crime, 
and paved and lighted streets with house numbers promi- 
nently and frequently placed. These conditions lead to quick 
arrival of help when need arises, and to short hauls in trans- 
portation of prisoners. They also permit the immediate re- 
turn to patrol duty and the frequent appearance of a patrol 
car at any given point. The conditions prevailing in the ter- 
ritory which the sheriff is called upon to protect are very 
different. The patrol areas are large and irregular, densely 
populated in parts but with wide reaches of sparsely settled 
territory, infrequent house numbers mostly indiscernible 
from a car in the street, no roadside telephone system re- 
served for police use, comparatively few private telephones 
available (virtually none after midnight) , dirt roads, and, in 
many places, little or no street lighting over wide areas. 

With the advantage of the use of the Los Angeles police 
transmitter, the sheriff's survey was carried forward on the 
nights of Saturdays and holidays, since these periods showed 
the greatest criminal activity and so yielded the greatest num- 
ber of calls per night worked. In the course of these studies, 
several of the sheriff's substations were used as headquarters 
at various times, but most of the work was done from Sub- 
station No. 2, in Belvedere, as that proved to be the most ac- 
tive district. 

The answering of one hundred radio calls, together with 
the patrol duty involved, was arbitrarily decided upon as a 
sufficient test to yield reliable data upon which to base sound 
conclusions relative to the future possibilities of this type 
of radio organization and procedure in the solution of the 
rural police-communication problem. One hundred and six 
calls were responded to and recorded in the course of the 
study. Fair weather, fog, and rain were among weather con- 
ditions contended with. 

Further studies relative to time elements and methods were 
carried on in the control room in the Los Angeles City Hall, 

222 Police Communication Systems 

from which the Los Angeles Police Department radio calls 
are sent, and in the transmitting stations of both Los Angeles 
and Pasadena. In addition, time and interval studies were 
made in the night hours with private receiving sets. 

The work in the field was done by two staff members of 
the Bureau of Efficiency, who carried credentials permitting 
them to ride in any sheriff's car at any time. They usually 
worked in company with the sheriff's deputy who had the 
direction of the radio patrol survey from its inception and 
authority to direct the handling of calls with respect to radio 
in all substations. Thus, though at the beginning of the survey 
there were available but three cars equipped with radio re- 
ceivers, it was possible to take one or more of these machines 
with its crew to any substation and test out the need for, and 
possible results to be obtained by, the use of radio cars in that 
district, without in any way disturbing the routine opera- 
tion of the substation. The scope of the study was thus made 

Usually the the work was started at 4 :00 P.M., and con- 
tinued until 6 :00 A.M. the following morning. When the radio 
patrol car left the station at the beginning of a patrol period, 
the time was noted and the speedometer reading taken. When 
a call was received for that car, the call was given its proper 
serial number for identification, and the data were recorded 
under the following heads : (a) time of call; (6) elapsed time, 
from receipt of call to arrival at destination ; (c) car location 
(at time of .call) ; (d) call location (scene of crime) ; (e) na- 
ture of call (burglary, holdup, disturbance, or whatever) ; 
(/) disposition (arrest, warning, or whatever) ; (g) miles per 
run. At the end of the patrol the time was noted and the speed- 
ometer again read. All "elapsed time" intervals were deter- 
mined by a stop watch to the nearest second, on each run made. 

In this phase of police work, each case, if considered in- 
dividually, is surrounded by a specific set of circumstances 
which have a definite bearing upon the time intervals in- 
volved. Thus, consider two radio calls requiring runs of equal 
distances. One may find the car returning to the station with 

The Regional Communication System 223 

several prisoners who must be disposed of before the run 
can be made ; to the other, the car may be free to respond at 
once. One call may involve an auto accident clearly visible to 
an approaching police car at a distance of several hundred 
feet ; the other may require the locating of a residence in a 
district where the houses are set far back from an unlighted 
street or roadway, making a search on foot necessary in find- 
ing the proper address. 

Clearly, the element of time elapsing between the receipt 
of a call in the car and the arrival at destination is a widely 
variable quantity, with respect to field conditions alone. 

A total of fifteen nights or parts thereof was devoted to 
patrol, in which 126 hours were spent on the roads and 939 
miles were traveled. This time includes all stops and delays 
of every sort and indicates that an average of 7.45 miles was 
traveled for each hour, or 59.60 miles per 8-hour watch. A 
total of 192.95 miles was traveled in responding to 106 calls. 
The average speed while on the run on call response was 23.02 
miles per hour. The maximum length of run was 12.50 miles, 
requiring 23 minutes 12 seconds, and the minimum distance 
and time were each zero. These minima came about because 
the car, in the course of its regular patrol duty, arrived at 
the scene of the trouble coincidentally with the receipt of the 
call directing it to go there. This occurred twice in the course 
of the work. 

The total mileage (939) and that part of it run in response 
to calls (192.95) indicate that 20.55 per cent of the mileage 
covered by a radio car would be spent on the run in response 
to calls. The rest is chargeable to patrol duty, prisoner trans- 
portation, transportation incident to accidents, trips to hos- 
pitals necessitated by transportation of accident victims, and 
other routine matters. 

Analysis of the 106 runs with respect to length of time pass- 
ing between receipt of call and arrival at destination showed 
that 12 calls required 1 minute or less ; 11 required more than 
1 minute but not more than 2 minutes ; 20 required more than 
2, not more than 3 minutes ; 20 required more than 3, not more 

224 Police Communication Systems 

than 4 minutes; 28 required between 4 and 8 minutes ; 12 re- 
quired between 8 and 15 minutes ; and 3 took more than 15 
minutes. Analysis of all runs with respect to cause showed 38 
different types of report received. Calls originating under the 
head of "Disturbance" were 19, "Auto accidents" 9, "Fight" 
8, "Burglary" 7, "Go to your station" 7, "Call your station" 
5, "Fire" 4, "Investigation of a car" 4. 

Data on the time passing between receipt of a complaint in 
a substation and the broadcast to a radio car were noted as 
opportunity offered, and were supplemented by substation 
records. The average was 1 minute 58 seconds ; the maximum, 
14 minutes seconds ; the minimum, minutes 30 seconds. 

Using the average time interval between the receipt of the 
call and the broadcast (1 minute 58 seconds) and the average 
interval between receipt of call and arrival at destination (4 
minutes 45 seconds), it was found that the average time that 
a citizen may expect to wait between the registering of his 
complaint with a substation and the arrival of a radio car at 
his door was 6 minutes 45 seconds. This time would of course 
be longer in the larger, sparsely settled districts. The sum of 
the minima as given above indicated that a car may arrive at 
the scene of a crime 30 seconds after the complaint reaches a 
substation. The sum of the maxima indicates a remote possi- 
bility of 37 minutes 12 seconds. These figures are given as the 
extremes, since it is very unlikely that either all the maximum 
or all the minimum elements would concentrate in any one 

This part of the survey proved convincingly that through 
the use of radio-equipped patrol cars a metropolitan type of 
police service can be extended to rural sections. In sparsely 
settled rural districts where patrol areas must necessarily be 
large, an average operating-time interval of 6 minutes 45 sec- 
onds represented a drastic reduction in the customary delay 
between the time that a citizen registered a complaint and 
the arrival of officers in response. 

Los Angeles County authorities next cast about for a police- 
operated transmitter capable of meeting their requirements. 

The Regional Communication System 225 

Within the immediate area police transmitters were located 
at both Los Angeles and Pasadena. The city of Los Angeles 
operates a 400-watt De Forest transmitter, using energy from 
the city's Bureau of Power and Light. A gasoline-operated 
auxiliary-power unit is maintained at the station in order to 
ensure continuous operation in the event of a temporary fail- 
ure of the regular power supply. The transmitter cost $7200 in 
very close competitive bidding, and the maintenance charges 
are about $200 a month. To operate this station two operators 
and one relief man are employed for each 8-hour shift. All 
are police officers receiving $200 a month and the monthly 
payroll is therefore $1800. In addition to this station payroll, 
various clerks and dispatchers are employed in the control 
room at the City Hall. 

The Los Angeles Police Department at the time was broad- 
casting for twenty other cities, three of which were in Orange 
County and the rest in Los Angeles County. As previously 
noted, it also broadcast the sheriff's calls in the experimental 
period covered by this survey. 

The Pasadena transmitter is in a penthouse on the roof of 
the Pasadena Hall of Justice. The equipment is an installa- 
tion of 500 watts capacity, but is limited by license allowance 
to the use of only 100 watts. The broadcasting is done by re- 
mote control from the Desk Sergeant's office on a lower floor. 
The calls are not repeated by the station operator, as in the 
Los Angeles system, but are put on the air twice by the same 
man. The Pasadena station broadcasts also for the cities of 
South Pasadena, Arcadia, and Sierra Madre ; it also had an 
agreement at the time to broadcast for the city of San Marino, 
but no radio cars had yet been placed in operation. The sys- 
tem used in Pasadena is fundamentally the same as that used 
in Los Angeles, but much less elaborate, as the entire radio- 
car fleet comprises only eleven patrol cars and one ambulance. 

Several alternatives were presented as a solution of the 
transmitter problem. With forty-two incorporated communi- 
ties in the county, assume each department to be equipped 
with a transmitter, but all on different frequencies or wave 

226 Police Communication Systems 

lengths. The broadcast from the city in which the crime is 
committed is received in its own patrol cars and in no others. 
The result is a circumscribed area of effective service, for, 
once the criminal passes the limit of that city, he is free to 
make his identification difficult or impossible so far as radio 
pursuit or detection is concerned. Now assume that each city 
concerned operates a transmitter, but all on the same fre- 
quency. Here is introduced the interference and delay oc- 
casioned by the efforts of various units to get on the air at 
the same time. This, however, is not necessarily the most im- 
portant drawback, though circumstances may readily be im- 
agined under which delay might become serious. 

True, through a signal arrangement between the different 
transmitting units, the air might be cleared for the broadcast 
of a major-crime alarm, but this requires time and is subject 
to both confusion and delay. The greatest drawback to success 
under such an arrangement, assuming that it were permitted 
by the Federal Communications Commission, which is un- 
likely, is that the factor of power would be so restricted as 
to limit the radius of audible broadcast. A criminal could 
within a short time pass out of the field covered by the trans- 
mitter of the city wherein the crime was committed. This is 
clearly illustrated by the Pasadena station, which is operat- 
ing with only 100 watts power under a power restriction of 
the Commission. Pasadena calls are so faint that they are fre- 
quently inaudible in the Belvedere district, and elsewhere in 
the county at no great distance from the transmitter. 

Obviously, independent broadcasting by political units in 
a limited area fails of its purpose. When one considers the 
problems faced in the transmission of crime alarms and other 
police matters over an area and under such conditions as are 
found in Los Angeles County, with its population of 2,200,000 
and its numerous communities the interests of which in police 
protection are fundamentally the same, it is clearly seen that 
the establishment of an independent transmitter plant is not 
a proper solution. In respect of practicability, such a plant 
could only add complication to a situation wherein simplicity 

The Regional Communication System 227 

and unity are synonymous with efficiency and success. In re- 
spect of economy, the answer is even more clear. 

Both the city of Los Angeles and the city of Pasadena in- 
formally indicated through their radio departments a will- 
ingness to broadcast sheriff's calls should the county set up a 
radio-car service. The work could be done by Los Angeles 
with no addition to personnel nor alteration or rearrangement 
of equipment. In Pasadena some changes would be necessary. 
Los Angeles would do the work on the basis of a small charge 
for each call ; Pasadena's suggestion was to prorate the total 
cost of transmitter maintenance. 

The saturation point of the Los Angeles transmitter was 
an important consideration, since it was necessary to deter- 
mine whether it would be able to accommodate the additional 
broadcast traffic from the sheriff's office. The number of sher- 
iff's calls for January, 1933, was 383, an average of about 13 
a day. For February, 1933, the total was 411, with a daily 
average of 15. When one is considering these figures, it must 
be borne in mind that the sheriff's experimental radio cars 
were working in the more active substation districts. With 
the entire county brought under radio-car patrol, it was esti- 
mated that the number of sheriff's calls under present crime 
conditions would not exceed 1200 a month. 

On a basis of 1200 a calls a month, or even twice that num- 
ber, the cost to the county if the broadcasting were done by 
either Los Angeles or Pasadena would be considerably less 
than the single item of transmitter-station payroll if an in- 
dependent transmitter was installed. The question of whether 
or not the county should install its own transmitter was 
clearly answered in the negative. 

The question arose, How much of the twenty-four hours of 
the day was actually consumed by police broadcasts ? In other 
words, What percentage of the time is the air occupied f or, 
How nearly has the saturation point been approached over a 
reasonable period ? 

Studies indicated that the period of greatest activity was 
from about 8 :00 P.M. to 1 :00 A.M., and several tests were run 

228 Police Communication Systems 

in order to determine as nearly as possible the maximum de- 
gree of saturation to be expected under present conditions. 
Finally the test run of the night of March 4, 1933, from 8 :10 
P.M. to 1 :15 A.M. was selected as showing the maximum traffic. 
The data derived from this test were as follows : Date of test, 
March 4-5, 1933; duration of test, 5 hours 3 minutes, or 
303 minutes ; times on air Los Angeles 114, Pasadena 19 ; 
elapsed time on air Los Angeles, 168 minutes 48 seconds ; 
Pasadena, 3 minutes 3 seconds ; total elapsed time on air, 171 
minutes 51 seconds ; percentage of time air was occupied, or 
degree of saturation, 56.72. 

The Los Angeles transmitter at that time was broadcasting 
an average of about 15,000 calls per month, this figure in- 
cluding some 400 sheriff's calls, the calls of twenty smaller 
cities, and the Orange County Fruit Patrol calls. The test de- 
scribed above indicated that this load plus the Pasadena load 
brought about, at maximum concentration, a saturation of 
but 56.72 per cent. Should the number 'of the sheriff's calls 
be increased to 1200 a month (adding 800 calls to the fig- 
ures shown by the test), the degree of saturation would be 
increased to only 59.72 per cent. It was evident that a serious 
condition of crowding did not exist, nor would it exist with 
a normal increase in calls for a long period to come. 

Possessing marked advantages over all other forms of rural 
policing employed up to the present time, the radio-equipped 
patrol car gives a speedy and efficient protection to the resi- 
dents of rural sections. Formerly, under the Los Angeles 
County patrol system, two kinds of service were offered to 
the public by the sheriff's substations : that of the "call car," 
and that of the "patrol car" or "prowler." The call car with 
its crew remains at the station until a call or complaint is re- 
ceived, whereupon it makes the run and takes care of the 
emergency. Once away from the station, however, all contact 
with the unit is lost until, its work completed, it returns to the 
station, possibly to be dispatched at once to another point 
only a short distance from the location of the first call, or, it 
may be, to stand by at the station for hours until its next call 

The Regional Communication System 229 

comes. This stand-by service is of course necessary; yet it 
should be noted that during the stand-by hours which are 
many nothing is being done in the way of active protection 
for the public. 

The prowler, on the contrary, being constantly on patrol, 
is thus always actively engaged in protecting the public. It is 
not, however, constantly in touch with its station, but it re- 
ports in by telephone occasionally, or returns to the station 
with prisoners, in the course of its regular duty. The value of 
the prowler lies entirely in the control of such crime or other 
trouble as may be detected by the eyes and ears of the crew. 
It is entirely possible that there may be desperate need for 
this car a short block from its location, yet the crew, though 
fully alert, may be in complete ignorance of the fact. 

Neither the call car, nor the prowler, nor both together, 
though fully performing their several functions, constitute a 
very efficient weapon against crime. In order to secure per- 
formance of the two functions of prompt response to calls 
and at the same time patrol of the area, a minimum of two 
cars and two crews to man them was required by each sub- 

Contrasting rather sharply with this type of service is that 
given by the radio car. Practically speaking, it is a patrol car, 
since it performs all the functions of a patrol unit or prowler ; 
but it also performs all the functions of a call car, since it can 
be dispatched at any time, and from any point on its patrol, 
in response to an emergency. One radio car with its crew 
therefore does the work of two cars and two crews under the 
old system. 

On the assumption that radio patrol would be made a part 
of the Los Angeles sheriff's service, a plan was proposed for 
the preliminary setup of patrol areas and the assignment of 
cars and personnel. It was recognized that the appearance of 
radio patrol in a district would probably cause rather decided 
changes in the crime situation, particularly in respect to its 
amount and distribution. Some of these changes might be 
sufficiently pronounced to warrant a readjustment in equip- 

230 Police Communication Systems 

ment distribution, hours of patrol, boundaries of patrol areas, 
and other distributional factors. The ninety-eight men needed 
for radio patrol were to be drawn from the already employed 
forces of the nine substations, outposts, and constabulary 
when the new plan should go into effect ; hence no increase in 
the salary budget was involved. 

It was estimated that for the ten districts there would be 
required 21 radio-equipped cars for active service, two stand- 
by or relief cars, and one car for the officer in command of the 
radio patrol a total of 24 cars, each equipped with a receiv- 
ing set. The sheriff's department already had 57 cars, so the 
automotive requirements were well taken care of in advance. 
Three additional receivers were to be provided as stand-by 
sets for emergency replacement service, and a receiver at each 
substation to permit of checking broadcasts with respect to 
time and accuracy. Such equipment would also make it possi- 
ble to keep the substations constantly informed of all the 
crime broadcasts that went out through the Los Angeles trans- 

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office has set the pace in 
harnessing modern communication to the requirements of 
rural police protection. In more than 100 scattered sections 
of the United States where metropolitan police areas are now 
served by radio broadcast, the surrounding rural sections 
should be receiving the benefit of like service. It is significant 
that all counties employing radio-equipped cars have a large 
city within their borders ; for example, in Monroe County, 
N. Y., is Rochester; in Cook County, 111., is Chicago; in 
Marion County, Ind., is Indianapolis; in Wayne County, 
Mich., is Detroit ; in Hamilton County, Ohio, is Cincinnati ; in 
Franklin County, Ohio, is Columbus; in Doubles County, 
Neb., is Omaha ; and Campbell County, Ky., although it em- 
braces no large city, is a part of the Cincinnati regional devel- 

The Regional Communication System 231 


Iii its regional application, the service is not limited merely 
to a control of the patrol forces of surrounding municipalities 
and rural districts. There are now in operation state-wide 
regional police radio systems, which provide broadcast serv- 
ice to state police organizations and other police agencies 
throughout a wide area. Such extended regional communi- 
cation plans usually depend upon the prior existence of an 
organized state police force, since the mosaic of political divi- 
sions and subdivisions over such a large territory would other- 
wise make the organization of police activities on a scale so 
comprehensive, quite difficult under present conditions. Most 
states, however, maintain a state highway patrol, and this 
unit is serving admirably as the basis for projected state-wide 
radio systems. The situation is, of course, ideal in those terri- 
tories where a regular state police organization is maintained. 

Until June 1, 1937, licenses for the operation of state police 
transmitting stations had been issued by the Federal Commu- 
nications Commission as shown in the list on pages 232-235. 

The most direct use of radio communication as a state-wide 
regional coordinator of police activities is to be found in 
Michigan, where, in 1929, an act was passed by the state legis- 
lature providing for a state-owned and -operated radio broad- 
casting station for police purposes only. Since the date of its 
installation, the Michigan state police radio system has made 
an enviable record and continues to operate as one of the most 
formidable weapons in the hands of the police for the detec- 
tion and suppression of crime in that state. 

In the other states mentioned, the application of state-owned 
stations to a state-wide system of police radio communication 
has not been quite so evident. The Commonwealth of Penn- 
sylvania, through the Pennsylvania State Police, operates a 
broadcasting station for state business only. Station WBAK 
is on the broadcast band and functions as a broadcast station. 
Pennsylvania does not operate any radio patrol cars. Owing 
to the size of the state (45,000 square miles) , it has been found 

232 Police Communication Systems 




Transmitter location 





*State of California, Dept. 
of Motor Vehicles 

Sacramento Calif 










State of Delaware, High- 
way Dept 

State of Florida 

Grass Valley, Calif 

Station No. 2 Highway 
Police, County of New 
Castle, Del 
Duval County. Fla 
Tallahassee Fla 







Pensacola Fla. 




Same . . 

Orlando, Fla. 





Tampa, Fla. 




State of Illinois, Dept. of 
Public Works and Build- 

Fort Myers, Fla 
West Palm Beach, Fla 

Chicago 111 







Duquoin, 111. 





Emngham, 111. 





Sterling, 111. 




State of Indiana 

Macomb, 111 
Pontiac, 111 
Springfield, 111 
Seymour, Ind 
Columbia City, Ind 





Indianapolis, Ind 





Culver Ind. 





Jasper, Ind. 




State of Iowa 

Fairfield, la. 




Same. . 

Atlantic, la. 




Maryland State Police 

Des Moines, la 
Waterloo, la 
Storm Lake, la 
Belair Md 





Laurel, Md. 




*Same . 

Cumberland, Md. 





Easton, Md 
Frederick, Md 
Conowingo, Md 
Waldorf Md 





Salisbury Md 




Commonwealth of Massa- 
chusetts, Dept. of Public 

Framingham, Mass 



Construction permit issued. 

The Regional Communication System 






Transmitter location 






Commonwealth of Massa- 
chusetts, Dept. of Public 


W. Bridgewater, Mass 





State of Michigan 


Northampton, Mass 
Houghton Heights, Mich. 

Paw Paw, Mich 
East Lansing, Mich 



1000 N 
5000 D 
1000 N 




Bureau of Criminal Appre- 
hension, State of Minne- 
State of Missouri, Highway 

State of Nevada 
State of New York 

Redwood Falls, Minn 
Jefferson City, Mo 

So. Schenectady, N. Y. 



5000 D 

1000 N 
2500 D 
1000 N 


*State of North Carolina. . . . 

Raleigh, N.C 
Swannanoa, N.C 


5000 D 



Salisbury, N. C 





State of Ohio, Dept. of 
Highways, Div. of High- 
way Patrol 


Elizabethtown, N. C 

Nr. Columbus, O 
Nr. Massilon, O. 







Nr. Wilmington, O 
Cambridge, O 





State of Oregon, Police and 
Highway Dept 


Astoria, Ore 
Baker, Ore 







Coquille, Ore 





The Dalles, Ore. 




Same. . . 

Eugene, Oregon 




*Same. . . . 






Grants Pass, Ore 



* Construction permit issued. 

t Denotes conditional and temporary on this frequency. 


Police Communication Systems 







Transmitter location 




*State of Oregon, Police and 

Highway Dept 
















Klamath Falls, Ore 





La Grande, Ore 





Milwaukie, Ore 





Bend, Ore 





Portable -mobile 





Pendleton, Ore 





Roseburg, Ore 





Salem, Ore 





Burns, Ore 





























Commonwealth of Penn- 

sylvania, Pennsylvania 

State Police 






Harrisburg, Pa 





Butler, Pa 





Wyoming, Pa 





Greensburg, Pa 





W. Reading, Pa 





Harrisburg, Pa 




City of San Antonio and 

Stateof Texas 

San Antonio, Tex 




State of Washington, Dept. 

of Fisheries 

Vessel "Governor Isaac I. 





State of Washington, Dept. 

of Fisheries 

Vessel "Governor John R. 

Rogers * ' 





Vessel "Governor Eliza P. 





State of Washington, High- 

way and Patrol Dept 
















Kalaloch, Wash 















Portable-mobile (snow- 




Construction permit issued. 

The Regional Communication System 





Transmitter location 






State of Washington, High- 

way and Patrol Dept. . . . 

Portable-mobile (snow- 











Seattle, Wash 





Snoqualmie Pass, Wash. . . 





Chinook Pass Wash 










Olympia, Wash. 





Bellingham, Wash 










Sky komish, Wash 





Mobile (snowplow) 










Mobile (snowplow) 





Mobile (snowplow) 





Mobile (snowplow) 





Mobile (snowplow) 





Ellensburg, Wash 





Bear River Camp, Wash. . 





Hells Crossing Camp, 






Satus Pass Camp, Wash. . . 





Yakima, Wash 





Vancouver, Wash 





Walla Walla, Wash 





Wenatchee, Wash 





Spokane, Wash 








impossible to signal from any one centrally located transmit- 
ter to patrol cars throughout the state. The impracticability 
of such an arrangement, it is said, for the Pennsylvania State 
Police and state-wide broadcasts has been demonstrated. 
Pennsylvania's problem, however, like those of several other 
states now interested in a state-wide radio communication 
plan, is not impossible of solution. 

The essence of the problem is the definite limit to the ef- 
ficient coverage of a radio transmitter. Its effective service 
radius is rigorously circumscribed by frequency and power 
factors, as well as other conditions affecting radio transmis- 

236 Police Communication Systems 

sion in general. It is the opinion of radio engineers that a large 
state, such as perhaps Kansas or Oklahoma, could not be ade- 
quately served by even a high-powered station placed in its 
center, because of the failure of the ground wave to carry re- 
liable transmission to all corners of the state at all times of 
the day and night, in all seasons, and under all conditions. 

The general principles governing use and operation of mu- 
nicipal police stations may also be applied to state police sta- 
tions. The frequency available for use by a state police station 
may be determined by inquiring at the office of the Commis- 
sion, since frequencies have been allocated to states in the 
same manner as to the areas for municipal police stations. 
The maximum power which may be authorized is 5000 watts 
sunrise to sunset and 1000 watts sunset to sunrise. 

The establishment of a state police radio system is a much 
more complicated problem than the establishment of a mu- 
nicipal police radio system. In order to be of maximum utility 
a state police radio system should be able to reach police of- 
ficers wherever located within a state at any hour of the day 
or night. In order to achieve this result with the minimum 
number of stations and the least expenditure of funds a field- 
strength survey of the state is most desirable. In all prob- 
ability the cost of making such a survey will be more than 
repaid by resultant savings. For instance, there is around each 
radio station a territory known as the "fading wall," in which 
fading is so intensive that irrespective of power the signals 
from that radio station are of very little utility. It is, there- 
fore, unnecessary to provide for the emission of any amount 
of power greater than that required to provide twenty-four 
hour service at the inside boundary of the fading wall. If as a 
result of a field-strength survey it is found that this range can 
be achieved by the proper use of a 1000- watt transmitter the 
installation of equipment capable of greater emission would 
be unnecessary and uneconomical. 

A promising relief for this situation is afforded through 
the engineering of a transmission system in which a plurality 
of transmitters of comparatively low power are distributed 

The Regional Communication System 237 

throughout a state and connected to a central control point 
by direct remote control lines or by the conventional teletype- 
writer network. As previously noted, installations of this type 
are already in operation in both Chicago and New York, where 
the metropolitan area to be covered precludes the use of only 
one transmitting station. 

With a sufficient number of low-powered transmitters 
placed at strategic points throughout a state, an alarm could 
be spread out over teletype lines simultaneously to the decen- 
tralized control points, and from there broadcast to mobile 
patrol units over the entire area within the space of a few 
minutes. With such a system in operation, the strength rep- 
resented by the combined police forces of the state could be 
mobilized, placing highway control points under surveillance 
or taking other necessary measures, without loss of time. Here 
again, two-way radio communication becomes a necessary link 
in the modern police system. With mobile units equipped with 
portable transmitters, officers indirect pursuit or otherwise in 
possession of vital information, would be in constant commu- 
nication with their local station, by which means additional 
facts and information would be exchanged and teletyped 
ahead for broadcast to other cruising units in the area. These 
mobile police stations have been found of great utility in con- 
nection with the establishment of temporary state police head- 
quarters to cope with local emergencies such as might arise 
in connection with a fire, flood, earthquake, or similar gen- 
eral disturbance. In at least one state, mobile state police 
units are equipped with radio transmitters for use in com- 
munication with police headquarters when patrolling remote 
roads and areas otherwise not furnished with communication 
and in which an emergency might arise. Thus, teletype for the 
simultaneous relaying of information between fixed points 
combines with broadcast to mobile units, to provide a regional 
system capable of covering any area, regardless of size. 

Under modern conditions, the police problem has become 
so complex that no one community may ever again hope to 
cope singlehanded with the criminal and his operations. The 

238 Police Communication Systems 

times call for a merger of interests on a scale which will per- 
mit the effective coordination of police action along a wide 
front. The situation in and around Chicago, Cincinnati, or 
Los Angeles is not unlike that of almost every other section 
of the United States-. Everywhere, cities and communities are 
nested so closely within compact areas that, considering their 
identity of interest and objectives, it is surprising indeed that 
their resources have not before this been combined into a 
powerful, unified government of metropolitan proportions. 
Meanwhile, until some greater transformation takes place, po- 
litical boundary lines must be, in some measure, swept aside. 
The crime rate of a given community is, in large degree, a 
function of the territorial unit, of which it is only a part. 
With more than seventy-five regional radio communication 
systems already in operation, and their number constantly 
growing, the means are rapidly being adapted to the end 


The regional police-communication system is dependent for 
its full success upon the existence of a plan for concerted ac- 
tion. Coordination is the very essence of the regional police 
system and is its only objective. Police forces in a regional 
organized area have an opportunity to develop in advance an 
adequate plan of operation, so that in emergencies the com- 
bined force can be quickly mobilized and placed in the field 
as one powerful unit. The value of maps in planning the fast- 
est possible concentration of patrol strength is so marked as 
to rank them among the most important of all communication 
accessories. Every patrol movement (and this is as true for 
the individual community as for the region) involves the in- 
spection or surveillance of given areas, and it is important 
that the police have exact information immediately available 
with respect to the terrain, the location and kind of arterial 
highways, laterals, streams, railroads, bus lines, streetcar sys- 
tems, canals, ferries, bridges, underbrush and forested areas, 
mountain passes, buildings, and factories, as well as other 
similar information. In the control and dispatching of patrol 

The Regional Communication System 239 

cars in the regional area or in the individual community, the 
preparation of satisfactory maps is the only possible means 
of cataloguing this important information so that it will be 
instantly available when an emergency arises. Such maps are 
also of invaluable assistance in the normal distribution of the 
patrol force and equipment. 

Police departments may gain much by a study of the many 
various uses of maps in military service. Besides their obvious 
value in open warfare and in military campaigns, they are 
employed daily by military students in the solution of tac- 
tical military operations. The thoroughness with which the 
military force makes use of them is shown by the enormous 
amount of detail which is recorded on military maps. Refer- 
ence to a military map will therefore suggest many points of 
value. Military and police service have much in common and 
the greater number of military hazards are also present in 
the organized patrol of a regional area as well as in the polic- 
ing of a single community. 

Aerial photographs, when properly taken, serve many of 
the purposes of maps and are in many ways even more use- 
ful than maps. They supply to the untrained person much 
of the information that the trained mind reads from a topo- 
graphic map and, in addition, supply details and relations 
that an ordinary map cannot depict. Aerial photographs have 
the advantages of range of action and wealth of detail and 
they are extremely useful when the accurate location of ob- 
jects is desired. 

Photography from the air had been developed and used in 
a limited degree before the World War, but with very few ex- 
ceptions the work was done from kites, balloons, and dirigi- 
bles. Aerial photographs of European cities had been used in 
the illustration of guidebooks and some aerial photographic 
maps of cities had been made, notably by the Italian dirigi- 
ble-balloon service. Kites had been employed with sr.ccess to 
carry cameras for photographing such objects as active vol- 
canoes, the phenomena of which could be observed with spe- 
cial advantage from the air, and which were usually situated 

240 Police Communication Systems 

far from balloon or dirigible facilities. In this prewar work, 
some scientific knowledge had been gained concerning photo- 
graphic conditions from the air. Aerial photography made its 
greatest strides, however, in the war. Photographs taken from 
airplanes were used extensively in the construction of maps 
of enemy territory. Extremely useful maps were produced in 
this manner, containing an immense wealth of detail which 
could not have been recorded in any other way. 

The volume of work performed by the photographic sec- 
tions of the military air service steadily increased until, to- 
ward the end of the war, it was truly enormous. The aerial 
negatives made every month in the British service alone num- 
bered scores of thousands, and the prints distributed in the 
same period numbered in the neighborhood of a million. The 
task of interpreting aerial photographs became a highly spe- 
cialized study. An entirely new activity that of making 
photographic mosaic maps usurped first place among topo- 
graphic problems. Toward the close of the war, scarcely a 
single military operation was undertaken until aerial photo- 
graphic information had first been obtained. 

The strategic importance of aerial photographs in military 
service should convince even the most skeptical of its many 
practical uses in police service. In warfare, aerial photog- 
raphy has been depended upon to discover the objectives for 
artillery and bombing, and to record the results of subsequent 
"shoots" and bomb explosions. The exact configurations of 
front-, second-, third-line, and communicating trenches, ma- 
chine-gun and mortar positions, the "pill boxes," organized 
shell holes, listening posts and barbed-wire entanglements, 
were all revealed, studied, and attacked entirely on the evi- 
dence of the airplane camera. An ordinary map of a city or 
rural area is, if it is complete, a labor of years. A modern city 
is always dangerously near to growing faster than its maps. 
An aerial map, however, can be produced in a few hours. 
Paris was mapped on 800 plates in less than a day's actual 
flying. Washington was completely mapped in 2% hours with 
fewer than 200 exposures, and recently in Rochester, N. Y., 

The Regional Communication System 241 

only one hour and twenty minutes and a total of eighty-two 
exposures were required. In most cities there are professional 
aerial photographers who are experts in this type of work 
and who invite consultation on such projects. 

The police emergency is forever characterized by the de- 
mand for rapid and intelligent action. The communication 
system provides the means by which members of the decen- 
tralized force may be informed of the emergency, but the 
problem does not end there. The area concerned must be 
carefully anatyzed, control points identified, police hazards 
and other information segregated and classified in a system- 
atic manner, and the rapid concentration of patrol strength 
PLANNED, if the communication system is to yield the results 
for which it was designed, and which it is capable of giving. 
Maps of the beat, precinct, division, of the entire city, and 
of the larger surrounding area, are an excellent basis for the 
formulation of such plans. 


rnpiELETYPEWRiTiNG is typewriting by wire. The distance, 
J. whether a few feet or the width of a continent, makes no 
difference ; the results are the same accurate, fast, and re- 
liable transmission of orders and information from one point 
to another. 

The uses of teletypewriting are many. It gives rapid and 
continuous service to newspapers and meets the demands of 
financial organizations for a flexible and foolproof mechanism 
in the handling of transactions that are frequently of world- 
wide importance. It fits into the methodical, ceaseless grind of 
the economic world, supplying an invaluable communication 
facility for all the fields of industry and manufactures and 
for commerce. The teletypewriter is to be found at landing 
fields of the national airways and in the weather-bureau of- 
fices and radio stations of the United States Department of 
Commerce, where it is used to transmit weather information 
that is important to the safety of air navigation. Since its first 
introduction into police work in 1922, its use in law-enforce- 
ment activities has expanded rapidly, and it has consistently 
proved its worth in the solution of two major police-communi- 
cation problems, namely, contact between headquarters and 
substations, and interdepartmental communication. 

The teletypewriter is an electrical machine into which are 
built the keyboard, carriage, and certain other parts of the 
typewriter. When a sending machine is connected by means 
of telephone circuits with other machines equipped for re- 
ceiving, it controls the equipment in such a way that any 
message written on the sending machine is instantly repro- 
duced in typewritten form at all receiving terminals. There 
are machines for sending, machines for both sending and re- 
ceiving, and equipment designed for receiving only. Land- 
wire connections are made over leased telephone lines or 
privately controlled circuits. The service may be installed and 


The Police Teletype Network 243 

maintained by the telephone company in much the same man- 
ner as telephone service. 

The teletype machine is of two kinds, the page printer, and 
the tape printer. The page machine accommodates stationery 
8 l /2 inches wide, either in a long continuous roll or in sepa- 
rate sheets ; when rolls are used, the paper is fed automatically 
into the machine. An original and several carbon copies may 
be made on either the transmitting or the receiving machine, 
or on both of them. If an error is made when sending with a 
page machine, it can be crossed out at the sending station and 
the correction will be made simultaneously at the receiving 
terminal. The tape machine types on tape, and automatically 
feeds the tape from a roll. The tape is three-eighths of an inch 
wide. Any work that can be done on the conventional type- 
writer, such as reports, messages, orders, statistics, and simi- 
lar material, can also be done on the teletypewriter. The kind 
of work to be done determines the choice between the page 
and the tape printers. In police work the page printer is pre- 
ferred, since it types the transmitted and received messages 
in a convenient form for filing and record purposes. 

The capacity of the machine is from 40 to 60 words a min- 
ute. When an operator types a message on a transmitting tele- 
typewriter, the sending mechanism converts the letters of the 
alphabet, also the necessary typewriting functions, such as 
paper feeding, carriage returning, and spacing, into groups 
of electrical impulses. These groups of impulses, originated 
at the sending machine, are transmitted over telephone cir- 
cuits by means of different current values. The signals re- 
ceived over the line actuate selecting devices in the receiving 
machine corresponding to the transmitted character and 
cause this character to be reproduced. 

The selecting code apparatus which causes the receiving 
machine to print employs five signal elements for each char- 
acter. This five-unit code device, worked out in terms of two- 
current values over the connecting telephone lines, provides 
thirty-two possible combinations. For example : let A repre- 
sent one current value and B the other; one of the possible 

244 Police Communication Systems 

combinations is therefore A B B B-B, another would be 
A B B B A; and so on. One of the five-unit combinations is 
assigned to each of the twenty-six letters of the alphabet, leav- 
ing six combinations for the typewriter functions. Combina- 
tion 27 causes the type mechanism to space without printing. 
Combination 28 returns the carriage when the end of the line 

Switchboard and associated teletypewriter : Harrisburg installation, 
Pennsylvania State Police teletype network. 

is reached; 29 feeds the paper upward. Combination 30 op- 
erates the shift key, and combination 31 moves the shift, so 
that, as in an ordinary typewriter, two sets of characters on 
the type bars are available for use. Combination 32 permits 
a receiving station to "break" or stop the sending operator 
when the receiving station desires to answer. If receiving-only 
machines are used, this last combination unit is not needed. 
Since only one signal element can be sent over the line at a 
time, the five elements representing each character must be 
transmitted in succession. In order that five signal elements 
shall be properly identified at the receiving end of the line, 
the receiving mechanism runs in synchronism with the send- 
ing machine ; thus each of the five signal elements controls 

The Police Teletype Network 245 

the proper selecting element in the receiving device. The 
sending and receiving mechanisms are driven by fractional- 
horsepower motors running at the same speed. The speeds are 
controlled either by the nse of governors or through the 
installation of synchronous motors. These motors, which run 
continuously while the teletypewriters are in use, drive the 
transmitting and receiving mechanisms through friction 
clutches. The transmitting and receiving machines, however, 
are restrained from operating by mechanical arrangements 
which are released when the first line signal is received. In 
order to accomplish this starting function, the five selecting 
signal elements are therefore preceded by a signal element of 
a current value opposite to that of the line in idle condition. 

The receipt of this first signal at the receiving teletype- 
writer starts the printing cycle. The five selecting elements 
which follow the starting signal select the proper character 
and cause it to be printed. Following the selecting impulses, 
a seventh signal element is transmitted over the line, which 
causes the receiving mechanism to stop at the completion of 
the printing cycle. When the next group of signals is received, 
the cycle is repeated. 

Under this arrangement, the receiving mechanism does not 
start until the first impulse is received, and it stops at the 
completion of the cycle. The sending and receiving mecha- 
nisms thus remain in synchronism only for one printing cycle. 
Teletypewriters are usually arranged to type at 60 words a 
minute, or, roughly, 6 letters a second, and synchronism can 
be accomplished without rigid requirements in respect to the 
speeds of the teletypewriter motors. 

Besides simplifying the manner of maintaining synchro- 
nism, the start-stop principle makes it possible for two sta- 
tions to communicate irrespective of the distance between 
them, or of the lag introduced into the signals by interven- 
ing circuits or apparatus. The selecting signal elements are 
always transmitted and received in the same time relation to 
the start impulse which controls the beginning of the print- 
ing cycle. 

246 Police Communication Systems 

In the design of teletype systems for police use, special ar- 
rangements are frequently required in order to meet condi- 
tions peculiar to police operations. There is, for example, a 
starting and stopping arrangement when communications are 
to be intermittent. Service is thus made available at any mo- 
ment without the necessity of continuous operation. Another 
arrangement of particular value in police work is the use of 
a loud alarm that is provided for patrol booths or other places 
where the officer is not always within hearing distance of 
the usual calling signals. Special switchboards are available, 
equipped either with keys or with cords and plugs, and de- 
signed to meet the requirements of a particular police organ- 
ization. In state-wide systems, the stations are frequently 
divided into zones, with each zone under the control of an in- 
dividual switchboard. In crime emergencies, when it is desira- 
ble to make a state-wide broadcast from general headquarters, 
what is called a seizure circuit may be set up, whereby the 
operator at headquarters may take control of, or seize, the 
broadcasting circuit of any or all zones throughout the area 
covered by the network. There are also acknowledgment cir- 
cuits (which permit stations to acknowledge the receipt of a 
message) , selective calling arrangements, and various systems 
of laying out circuits so that some stations may send, some 
send and receive, and others receive only. 

If teletype connections are few and messages infrequent, 
only the individual machines and interconnecting lines are 
required. As the scope and use of the service enlarges, it is 
necessary to set up a central exchange for convenience in 
making the desired connections. The teletype switchboard ful- 
fills this purpose. At zone headquarters, or in the central divi- 
sion offices of a police department, a specially designed PBX 
switchboard may be provided for the dispatching of teletype 

The first switchboard designed for broadcasting informa- 
tion from a central station to outlying stations was a 24-line 
radial system which supplied one-way transmission, the out- 
lying stations being equipped with receiving-only machines. 

The Police Teletype Network 247 

This type of switchboard may be used by one or two operators, 
depending upon the volume of message traffic. The next step 
in teletype switchboard development was taken by the New 
York Police Department, in which each borough headquarters 
broadcasts both to its own local precinct stations and to other 
borough headquarters. (The complex system of the New York 
police will be described later under a discussion of precinct 
systems.) New arrangements were incorporated into teletype 
construction, including the acknowledgment key and the gen- 
eral broadcast or "break" key. 

A later development provides for intercommunication be- 
tween outlying stations. This cannot be accomplished merely 
by connecting the two lines together at the switchboard, be- 
cause teletypewriter operations require that the line current 
be held to approximately a constant value. A simple connec- 
tion of two lines would change their impedance and thus the 
current flowing, so that the insertion of a single-line repeater 
is required at the switchboard. An experimental installation 
in a large industrial concern was found to be satisfactory. 
With this sj^stem, the outlying stations are equipped for send- 
ing as well as receiving, and PBX may be called by operating 
a key at the outlying station. The central operator then con- 
nects the calling station to any other desired. Broadcasting is 
also provided for, as in the older installations. 

Frequently, it is desirable to send a message to a station 
when no attendant is present. For this purpose, it is necessary 
to have some means of starting the motors of the machines 
at substations from the headquarters switchboard. The trans- 
mitting circuit or a second channel may be used to do this. 
Modifications are often required of the standard switchboard, 
because of special conditions in certain organizations. 


Combining the speed of the telephone with the accuracy of the 
printed word, the teletypewriter has become an established 
and vital link in the police chain of communication. Through 
the rapid transmission of information to a single point, or 

248 Police Communication Systems 

simultaneously to any number of stations, it often supersedes 
the telephone and supplements the functions of the radio com- 
munication system. It holds promise of continued expansion 
as a means for rapid communication between headquarters 
and substations in metropolitan police systems, and for the 
solution of many territorial communication problems which 
confront the police. 


In the decentralized form of police organization to be found 
in large metropolitan departments, the teletype network is 
an effective instrument for the coordination of a far-flung 
force into one composite unit. Between headquarters and sub- 
stations it supplies a rapid and accurate system of communi- 

As an aid to administrative activity, it makes possible the 
speedy and reliable transmission of departmental orders, in- 
structions, personnel notices, important announcements, or- 
ders concerning the distribution of the force and equipment, 
and other information, from the executive branch of the de- 
partment to commanding officers at substations. By the same 
means, substations may quickly dispatch crime summaries, 
daily, weekly, and monthly reports, statistical reports, per- 
sonnel information, and other data concerning the individual 
district or precinct to central headquarters, where this infor- 
mation may be used in correlating the needs of the police 
department and directing its operations to the best advan- 
tage. The time required for the transaction of such routine 
business is thus reduced to a minimum with the result that 
the demands of the emergency may be promptly and ade- 
quately met. 

In emergencies the teletype system is an effective agency 
for the prompt dissemination of crime information and oper- 
ating instructions to substations. It offers a ready means for 
dispatching detailed descriptions of missing or wanted per- 
sons, lost, found, and stolen property, stolen automobiles, 
crime reports, and other emergency information. 

The Police Teletype Network 249 

A call for police assistance arriving in the central complaint 
room may or may not require radio broadcast, depending en- 
tirely upon the situation reported. In either event, however, 
the teletype system comes into play most effectively. This is 
best illustrated by tracing two typical calls. A citizen in a 
hurried report over the telephone informs the police operator 
that his store has just been entered and robbed by three men 
who escaped in an automobile. Details of the crime are given 
in brief and without delay to all patrol units, by radio broad- 
cast. A supplementary message is then sent out to all substa- 
tions by teletype, containing a more detailed report of the 
crime, together with such other information as may be help- 
ful to commanding officers in directing the men working out 
of their respective stations. The second call may be a com- 
plaint of a barking dog in one of the precincts, or some other 
matter not requiring broadcast by radio. Such reports, of 
w r hich there are many in the course of an average tour of po- 
lice duty, are quickly relayed by teletype to the stations of 
the districts in which the reports originate, and are there 
assigned to patrol officers for investigation. Working between 
the two extremes illustrated, the teletype system provides for 
an unobstructed flow of both routine and emergency message 
traffic, and is an effective agency of commmunication in ad- 
ministrative activities, besides. 

The teletype system of the police department of Baltimore, 
installed in October, 1930, is fairly representative of the mu- 
nicipal network. The equipment used in this installation con- 
sists of one 10-line, two-way switchboard, and nine page-type 
sending and receiving machines. Two of these machines are 
at heaquarters and the remaining seven in the precinct sta- 
tions, which are placed at strategic points throughout the city. 
The control arrangement permits headquarters to send a mes- 
sage to any one of the precinct stations individually, or to any 
group, or to all the precincts simultaneously. Not more than 
two communications to or from headquarters may be in prog- 
ress at the same time. The precinct stations may communicate 
with each other through the headquarters switchboard, but 

250 Police Communication Systems 

such communications are limited to one at a time. Not more 
than two district stations may be connected with each other 
at the same time. There are fourteen substations throughout 
the outlying sections of Baltimore. These offices, under the 
supervision of the district stations, make use of the telephone 
in conveying urgent messages to headquarters, whence flashes 
may be broadcast over the entire city through the teletype 

The San Francisco Police Department owns arid maintains 
a teletypewriter system comprising a 20-line switchboard, two 
page-type sending and receiving machines, and seventeen re- 
ceiving-only sets, all set up within the city limits and main- 
tained by the city's Department of Electricity. The city owns 
its own circuit facilities, with the exception of one cable pair 
(extending between the Hall of Justice and the Bay view Po- 
lice Station) which is provided by the telephone company at 
its customary charges for such facilities. The circuit is oper- 
ated on a speed basis of 40 words a minute, and ordinarily all 
stations are connected by the circuit, although the switch- 
board is arranged for individual or group selection. 

Teletype service has been in operation in the Boston Police 
Department since 1927. This facility permits the Boston Po- 
lice Headquarters to transmit typewritten messages instan- 
taneously to all its twenty-one divisional stations scattered 
throughout the city. Headquarters makes use of page-type 
sending and receiving equipment; substations are equipped 
with receiving-only machines. The neighboring communities 
of Arlington, Brookline, Cambridge, Medford, Melrose, 
Quincy, and Somerville have connected their police depart- 
ments by teletype with the Boston system, and have also estab- 
lished communication among themselves. 

In the early part of 1929 a teletype system was put in oper- 
ation by the Buffalo Police Department. It consists of two 
page-type sending and receiving machines installed at gen- 
eral headquarters and sixteen receiving-only machines in- 
stalled respectively at each of the sixteen precinct stations in 
Buffalo. By means of a radial switchboard, headquarters can 

The Police Teletype Network 251 

send message traffic to any one, or to a selected group, or to 
all the precinct stations simultaneously. Various kinds of po- 
lice information, such as descriptions of missing persons, in- 
formation concerning lost or stolen articles, orders for arrest, 
general reports, and general alarms are transmitted over this 
network with accuracy and dispatch. 

The installation in the New York Police Department is 
necessarily more complex, but is none the less effective. New 
York is divided into five boroughs, Manhattan, Brooklyn, the 
Bronx, Queens, and Richmond. For each borough there is a 
separate police command with a headquarters office. General 
police headquarters for this great metropolitan area is sit- 
uated in Manhattan, and the precincts in this borough are 
controlled directly from general headquarters. The other four 
boroughs are divided into precincts, each with a police station, 
and connected with the borough headquarters by teletype. 

There are 109 page-type machines in the New York system, 
which provides for two-way teletypewriter service between 
general police headquarters and the four outlying borough 
police headquarters, and one-way service from each borough 
headquarters to its associated precincts, traffic squads, and 
special service points. At general headquarters, four receiv- 
ing-only machines handle messages from borough headquar- 
ters, and one receiving-only machine at each of these borough 
stations handles messages from general headquarters. 

In each borough headquarters a switchboard with tie lines 
permits two- way service between each borough station and the 
receiving-only sets in its associated precincts. Each switch- 
board has associated with it two sending-receiving machines, 
one normally used for one-way service and the other for two- 
way communication. The functions of these machines may be 
interchanged, or one set may serve both purposes if desired. 
The system provides the following services : (1) switchboards 
enable the operators to select and send messages to any one 
machine, to a group of machines, or to all machines connected 
with the switchboards ; (2) two-way communication is facili- 
tated between general headquarters and the other four bor- 

252 Police Communication Systems 

ough headquarters ; (3) one-way communication is facilitated 
between each borough headquarters and each precinct in the 
borough ; and (4) the receiving-only machines on the one-way 
lines are equipped with a switch for operation of a line lamp 
at the sending station in acknowledgment of the receipt of a 

The teletypewriter is used in the New York Police Depart- 
ment for the transmission of messages pertaining to crime 
emergencies and the transaction of routine business such as 
descriptions of persons, information regarding lost or stolen 
property, orders for arrest, general reports, subpoenaing pa- 
trolmen to appear at the various courts, and adjustments and 
assignments of the police force. 

The information transmitted is of two kinds : first, that of 
general importance to all divisions of the force, transmitted 
by general headquarters to the other boroughs, from which 
points it is communicated to the precincts, if they are in- 
volved ; and second, that of concern to one borough only. 

Messages classed as alarms are numbered serially, starting 
with January 1 and ending with December 31, of each year. 
This numbering arrangement, acting as a check, enables pre- 
cinct commands to be sure of receiving all alarms, and facili- 
tates cancellations when necessary. The average daily number 
of crime alarms transmitted over this system is eighty, exclu- 
sive of routine messages, reports, and instructions. 

The value of the municipal system, however, is not limited 
to rapid, local police communication. The greater number of 
municipal installations are connected by direct wire with 
territorial teletype networks, so that the municipal system be- 
comes an important unit in a larger and more comprehensive 
system of police communication. In the regional coordination 
of police activities, the teletypewriter occupies an enviable 
position as an agency for the instantaneous communication of 
emergency alarms to fixed points over a large area. 

As indicated in an earlier chapter, in the ultimate solution 
of the problems attending radio transmission over wide areas 
teletype networks will doubtless be used for the dissemination 

The Police Teletype Network 253 

of crime information to fixed stations strategically placed in 
the regional area, from which points the alarm will be broad- 
cast to mobile patrol units in the immediate territory by low- 
powered transmitters placed at the individual teletype con- 
trol points. The regional teletype system also affords a means 
for rapid clearing of routine reports and information, activi- 
ties connected with criminal identification, and other similar 
details, which must otherwise suffer the delay of handling by 
mail, or the expense of transmission by commercial telegraph. 


The teletype installation in Essex County, N. J., is of particu- 
lar interest, for it ties not only with the New Jersey state-wide 
system, but also with the New York City system. With Newark 
as headquarters, twenty-two municipalities in the county are 
joined together through the teletypewriter. Through Newark, 
connection may be made with New York City, and, since the 
New Jersey state zone headquarters are in Newark, police 
forces of Essex County enjoy the facilities of a very extensive 
communication network. 

Another county teletype installation which is connected 
with the New York City system, and which shows how 
promptly a regional system may be set up through the con- 
necting of municipal, county, and state systems, is that in 
Nassau County, Long Island. The Nassau County police are 
responsible for patrolling all sections of the townships in that 
county not included within the limits of incorporated villages. 
At the request of certain of these villages, it has undertaken 
to police them also. 

The Nassau County Police Department is divided into six 
precincts, with county headquarters at Mineola. The system 
consists of a 20-line switchboard at Mineola headquarters, 
from which two-way circuits, terminating in sending and re- 
ceiving instruments, extend to each precinct headquarters. 
Two machines are provided at the switchboard for operating 
purposes. The switchboard is so arranged that the operator 
may select and send or receive messages to or from any station 

254 Police Communication Systems 

connected in the circuit. Messages may also be sent simultane- 
ously to a selected group of stations or to all stations in the 

Through the cooperation of the Nassau County police, the 
police departments of a number of incorporated villages in 
the county are also connected with the county switchboard. 
These villages contract for the machines and connecting cir- 
cuits, which are operated in much the same manner as the 
precinct circuits, previously described. 

The Nassau County system is connected with the New York 
City police network by two one-way circuits. The circuit from 
the Mineola switchboard to New York City terminates in a 
receiving-only instrument at Manhattan headquarters, and 
a circuit from that point terminates in a receiving-only in- 
strument at Mineola. 

Messages or alarms received at any county patrol station 
are telephoned to precinct headquarters, and the message is 
transmitted to county headquarters over teletype lines. If the 
cooperation of New York City is desired, the message may be 
teletyped to Manhattan headquarters. 


The Pennsylvania system. The first state-wide police tele- 
typewriter system was set up by the Pennsylvania State Po- 
lice on December 23, 1929. The system comprises 110 machines 
operating continuously and connects 95 cities and 100 loca- 
tions within the state. 

The territory is divided into four zones, with central head- 
quarters at Harrisburg, the state capital, and zone headT 
quarters at Philadelphia, Pittsburg, and Wyoming. The 
equipment at each of these places consists of a 24-line-capacity 
radial teletypewriter switchboard and its associated appara- 
tus, to which are connected one regular and one emergency 
page-type sending and receiving machine. In addition, one 
receiving-only instrument is placed at each of the zone head- 
quarters and three at central headquarters. All other stations 
are equipped with receiving-only machines. Nine main chan- 

The Police Teletype Network 255 

nels radiate from Harrisburg to various parts of the state so 
that messages may be sent simultaneously to all stations on 
the system or, if desired, to stations on any one or more of 
these main channels which may be selected. Branch channels 
radiate from each of the zone headquarters so that each in- 
dividual station may send to the other station in its zone. The 
channels between zone headquarters and central headquar- 
ters are arranged for simultaneous transmission in both 

The system functions as follows : A police officer in a town 
where a crime has been committed, telephones details of the 
emergency to his zone headquarters. Zone headquarters, by 
means of the teletypewriter, dispatches the information to 
all points within the zone and to central headquarters at Har- 
risburg. The information, upon its receipt at Harrisburg, is 
edited and, if important enough, is transmitted over the other 
channels, or such lines as may be selected, to distant parts 
of the state. Matters of general interest arising in the state 
police department at Harrisburg can be sent from that point 
to all other stations on the system. 

A desirable and interesting result of the teletype installa- 
tion is the closer cooperation secured between state and local 
police in Pennsylvania. Most of the installations connected 
with the system have been set up in municipal police head- 
quarters, so that state-wide crime news becomes readily avail- 
able to local police departments as well as to the state police. 

The first incident to occur after the installation of the 
Pennsylvania state teletype system was the theft by two men 
of a large black sedan with green wheels, from a garage in 
South Philadelphia. Ten minutes after the robbery, a message 
went out from the City Hall over the local teletype system 
and to central headquarters in Harrisburg, from which point 
it was transmitted throughout the state. The message, desig- 
nated by the police code as General 89-Ph 18, read as follows : 


256 Police Communication Systems 





Iii the pocket of a state trooper leisurely patrolling the main 
highway through Greensburg there was soon reposing a typed 
description of a black sedan with green wheels, two men, one 
with a gun. A car drew up before a roadside restaurant and 
the occupants, two men, went in for refreshments. Ten min- 
utes later, the following message was received over the tele- 
type system at the City Hall in Philadelphia : 


Three hours after the commission of the crime, just the length 
of time that it took the two men to drive the stolen sedan 
across the state, they were taken into custody and arrange- 
ments were made to return them to Philadelphia for inves- 
tigation and trial. This incident, taken from actual police 
records, is typical of the use that is made of the teletype sys- 
tem of police communication. 

The New Jersey system. The New Jersey State Police net- 
work spreads out from five teletype switchboards. There is one 
at state headquarters in Trenton, and one at each of the zone 
headquarters, in Newark, Morristown, Freehold, and Ham- 

The state headquarters board has a capacity of ten circuits. 
One-way circuits extend from it to police stations in the vi- 
cinity of Trenton. These circuits terminate in receiving-only 
machines. Two-way circuits extend from state headquarters 
to zone headquarters. The outward path of these two-way cir- 

The Police Teletype Network 257 

cults ends in a receiving-only instrument at zone stations. 
The return line from each zone station terminates in a re- 
ceiving-only machine at state headquarters. Two sending and 
receiving teletypewriters are connected to the switchboard 
at the state headquarters, one of which is available for emer- 
gency use. 

By operating the proper switching keys on the switchboard, 
the state headquarters can broadcast over any or all of the 
circuits extending from the board, that is, to any group of 
stations, or to all stations on the one-way circuits, or to any 
or all zone headquarters. Besides this selective broadcasting, 
the state headquarters may, by the operation of a timing key, 
automatically seize all circuits, including those extending 
from all zone headquarters switchboards, for the broadcast- 
ing of general alarms. When this timing key is operated, the 
sending machines at all zone stations are automatically re- 
moved from the sending circuit, thereby preventing the in- 
terruption of the message from state headquarters by the 
sending of another message from any zone station. 

Switching keys at state headquarters permit the establish- 
ment of connections between zone headquarters through the 
switchboard at state headquarters. Switchboards at the zone 
stations each have a capacity of eighteen key-controlled one- 
way circuits. These circuits extend through the zone to police 
stations, where they terminate in receiving-only machines. 

Connected to the switchboard at zone headquarters are one 
regular sending and receiving, one spare sending and re- 
ceiving, and one receiving-only machine. By operation of the 
switching keys on the switchboard, a message may be trans- 
mitted to any group of stations connected with the board. 
All messages originating at zone headquarters are also trans- 
mitted over the two-way circuit to the receiving-only tele- 
typewriter at state headquarters, so that the central station 
has complete supervision over all alarms broadcast over any 
part of the system. 

The California network. California was quite ready for 
the installation of a state-wide police teletype system since 

258 Police Communication Systems 

there was already at Sacramento, the state capital, a well- 
established central bureau and clearinghouse for police in- 
formation, namely, the Division of Criminal Identification 
and Investigation. The annual reports of this Division reveal 





California police teletype network. 

the scope of its activities and the invaluable assistance that it 
gives to California peace officers. Because of its position as a 
state-wide clearinghouse for police information, the Division 
was the logical nucleus for a comprehensive police teletype 
network, which now comprises twenty-four stations. 

The Police Teletype Network 259 

The equipment of the system consists of fifty-one page-type 
sending and receiving machines and four receiving-only in- 
struments, connecting seventeen cities in California and one 
in Nevada, at forty-five locations. Operation is at a rate of 
40 words a minute, and for the twenty-four hours of the day. 

There are three control points in the system : the offices of 
the State Division of Criminal Identification and Investiga- 
tion at Sacramento, headquarters of the Police Department 
of San Francisco, and the Sheriff's Office at Los Angeles. At 
these three points, specially designed cord-type switchboards 
are provided, from which radiate eight circuits connecting 
fourteen sheriffs' offices at as many county seats and seven 
police departments in California, also one city in Nevada, 
and two locations for the State Motor Vehicle Department. 

Each of these switchboards permits a maximum of three 
two-way connections at one time. Provision is also made to 
permit of one-way transmission from any one of the three 
switchboards to all other stations of the entire system. In con- 
junction with switchboard equipment at the three control 
points, there are two service and one spare page-type sending 
and receiving teletypewriters, with one page-type receiving- 
only machine for monitoring purposes, which is used in con- 
nection with the through trunking circuit between the three 
control points. At the Sacramento control station, two moni- 
toring receiving-only machines are used for this purpose. 

In order to facilitate expansion of the system, other city 
and county police organizations throughout the state have 
been invited to connect with the system at their own expense. 
The telephone company will provide such connections under 
separate contracts with each respective police and sheriff's 
organization concerned. Under this sort of arrangement, sev- 
eral more cities will soon be connected with this system. Plans 
are under way for the extension of the network until every 
county seat and principal city in California will be part of 
the system. 

The matter sent over the system falls into two classes : first, 
the message, and second, the broadcast. The message concerns 

260 Police Communication Systems 

information in the hands of one department which, it is be- 
lieved, would be of interest to another force ; or it requests in- 
formation which the receiving department may be able to 
give. It is usually of interest only to the sending and receiving 
departments, although, because of the kind of circuits used, 
it is received at all stations through which pass the wires con- 
necting the sending and receiving stations. The broadcast con- 
sists usually of a description of a person, a vehicle, or other 
property wanted by the department sending the broadcast. 
Broadcasts may be sent only by the three switchboard sta- 
tions called "control stations," and they are sent simultane- 
ously to all stations on the system. In the first ten and a half 
months' operation of the system, to June 30, 1932, 51,111 
messages were transmitted over the network, in addition to 
4230 all-points bulletins. These bulletins were sent from a con- 
trol station to all other stations on the circuit simultaneously, 
and represented the equivalent of approximately 80,000 ad- 

ditional messages. 


Municipal, county, and state teletype systems form the basis 
for widespread regional networks, and these in turn must, by 
the very nature of things, eventually constitute the founda- 
tion for a national police-communication system. Consider, 
for example, the New York municipal system. Direct teletype 
connections exist between Manhattan and the Connecticut, 
New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania state-wide tele- 
type networks, thus establishing a five-state regional police 
communication system. A wide net can be flung out very 
quickly, since it is possible within the space of a few minutes 
to spread, in typewritten form, an alarm which would effec- 
tively cover this vast area. 

The communication committee of the Northwest Associa- 
tion of Sheriffs and Police recently authorized an extended 
survey of the Pacific Northwest, with the object in view of 
developing plans for an interstate teletype system. The terri- 
tory covered by the survey included the states of California, 
Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Utah, to- 

The Police Teletype Network 261 

gether with the Province of British Columbia. Since Cali- 
fornia, Oregon, and British Columbia are already operating 
state-wide systems, the dream of a Pacific Coast and Pacific 
Northwest network for police service may soon become a 

On June 18, 1931, at the International Anti-Crime Confer- 
ence held in Seattle, Wash., an effective demonstration was 
given of the possibilities of the teletypewriter in interstate 
police communication and of the ease with which police de- 
partments thousands of miles apart could almost instantly 
spread information over vast areas that would facilitate 
prompt identification and apprehension of criminals. An in- 
ternational network of telephone lines, covering 7000 miles, 
carried messages from the conference to twelve states, a Cana- 
dian province, and fifteen cities scattered in various places 
across the continent. It was also demonstrated that, within 
three minutes after the report of an important crime was re- 
ceived by a police department, a crime summary of 120 words 
could be placed in the hands of law-enforcement officers in 
hundreds of cities. It should be noted, incidentally, that 
neither the number of stations nor the distance between them 
hinders the speed or efficiency of a communication. 

In view of the growing importance of the Federal Bureau 
of Investigation at Washington, D. C., the significance and 
prophecy contained in this demonstration should set the pace 
for a future development when regional police networks will 
have been welded together in a national and even interna- 
tional police-communication plan. 


Exactness in operating and recording procedure is prerequi- 
site to the systematic use of teletypewriter facilities. In the 
municipal system, individual departments may work out pro- 
cedures to meet their particular requirements. In the terri- 
torial networks, however, such as state and regional systems, 
the operating and record practices should be uniform through- 
out the system. Uniformity indeed is imperative if the tele- 

262 Police Communication Systems 

type communication system is to perform the services for 
which it is designed. 1 

The teletypewriter offers the authority and reliability of 
the printed message at both the sending and receiving termi- 
nals. Responsibility is definitely fixed by means of the printed 
form, and efficient record procedure becomes a comparatively 
simple matter. The teletypewriter supplies at all receiving 
stations an exact duplicate of the message typed on the send- 
ing machine. 

The secrecy of communication possible with the teletype- 
writer commends it as a safe and expedient instrument. Since 
the sending and receiving mechanisms are on police property, 
and since the circuits are controlled by the teletypewriters 
and switchboards, no one without authority can possibly have 
access to any part of the system. The intervening wires be- 
tween a sending and receiving machine cannot be tapped. 
Despite the distance which may separate machines, the mes- 
sages sent over them can be kept as secret as a whispered con- 
sultation between detectives in police headquarters. 

The population of a community has little or no relation to 
the need for teletypewriter service. An opinion too often pre- 
vailing, that only the police of the larger cities may profitably 
make use of modern communication facilities, is quite con- 
trary to the truth. With the access to lines of a territorial net- 
work radiating out to small communities placed at strategic 
points in the area, the small police force of the township or 
village, individually powerless to cope with a major crime 
emergency in its vicinity, is supported by the potential 
strength represented by the entire network. Furthermore, the 
small local force becomes an effective unit in the regional sys- 
tem, ready to act immediately upon the receipt of emergency 
crime information from teletype control points. Thus the po- 
lice function becomes a reciprocal one, and both the individual 
community and the territory as a whole benefit through the 
coordination of their activities. 

1 See Appendix 6, p. 508, "New York State Teletype System, Operat- 
ing and Eecord Procedure." 

The Police Teletype Network 263 

In the large metropolitan system, the teletypewriter may 
become an agency of decentralization through the provision 
of a speedy and reliable means of communication between 
headquarters and substations for the relaying of administra- 
tive, routine, and emergency message traffic. Moreover, the 
metropolitan department, through its connection with county, 
state, and interstate systems, shoulders an even greater re- 
sponsibility to surrounding police forces than does the small 
community. As a large identification center and depository for 
criminal records, the metropolitan organization can greatly 
assist the smaller departments in the area, bringing to bear 
upon given situations the full strength of its facilities for the 
detection and suppression of crime. 

With the speed, flexibility, and accuracy provided through 
a teletype communication system, criminal identification be- 
comes a weapon of growing importance in law enforcement. 
Suppose, for example, that a man makes application for a 
peddler's license at the city hall, and that he is suspected by 
detectives stationed there of being a former convict. Through 
the teletypewriter, it is possible to make inquiry about him, 
have the detailed records of the man examined, and receive 
full information concerning him within a comparatively few 

There was, as a matter of fact, an actual incident of this 
kind, in which events happened so rapidly that the man un- 
der observation never suspected that anything was amiss. 
One detective chatted casually with the suspected man in a 
city hall corridor, while another dispatched a teletype mes- 
sage to the State Bureau of Identification, some seventy-five 
miles away. A reply clearing the man was received within 
fifteen minutes, and the two detectives showed the man the 
office that he had been looking for without revealing their 
connection with the police force. The utility of the teletype- 
writer in practical police service is strikingly illustrated by 
the teletype message exhibits shown in Appendix 7 (p. 523), 
which were taken directly from the files of the New Jersey 
State Police teletype system. These exhibits are designated in 

264 Police Communication Systems 

series, each series giving the complete communication history 
of an actual police case under investigation. 2 

There is some evidence of failure on the part of the police 
departments within an area served by teletype communica- 
tion to make adequate use of these facilities. The teletype- 
writer, with a transmission rate of from forty to sixty words 
a minute, can handle a tremendous volume of message traffic 
in the course of twenty-four hours, and police departments 
that have this facility available should make the most of it. 
The organizations at central control points should give the 
proper instructions to the forces in all the communities that 
are served directly or indirectly by teletype lines, and encour- 
age its use as a major police-communication facility. Besides 
improving law-enforcement activities in the local community 
and in the territory at large, such a policy will draw favorable 
attention to the need for teletype networks in other sections 
where the police have not yet been able to obtain appropria- 
tions for the installation of this equipment. 

The teletypewriter system will carry information to the 
receiving instruments, but unless provision is made for its 
distribution to patrol units, it will be of little value in the 
prevention and detection of crime or in the apprehension of 
criminals. It is here that the interlocking functions of the 
various police communication units are brought into play. 
Through radio broadcast and the recall and beat telephone 
systems, the crime report may be placed promptly in the 
hands of the individual motor and foot patrolmen, who, in 

2 Exclusively police-controlled teletype systems are now in operation 
in the United States as follows : 

Municipal systems: Albany, N. Y., Baltimore, Md., Boston, Mass., 
Buffalo, N. Y., Chicago, 111., Cincinnati, Ohio, Cleveland, Ohio, Detroit, 
Mich., Evanston, 111., Kansas City, Mo., Los Angeles, Calif., Minneapo- 
lis, Minn., Newark, N. J., New York City, Norfolk, Va., Omaha, Neb., 
Philadelphia, Pa., Pittsburgh, Pa., Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Calif., 
Seattle, Wash., St. Louis, Mo., Washington, D. C., Winnetka, 111., and 
Worcester, Mass. 

County systems: Essex County, N. J., Hudson County, N. J., Los An- 
geles County, Calif., Nassau County, N. Y., Union County, N. J., West- 
chester County, N. Y., St. Louis County, Mo. 

State systems: California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, 
New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. 

The Police Teletype Network 265 

the last analysis, must represent the department on the front 
lines of action. 

In modern police organization, whether municipal, county, 
or state police administration, the basic unit of operation is 
the individual patrol area or beat. Upon these decentralized 
units rests the structure of the entire organization. The tele- 
type receiving instrument is only a point of relay in the chain 
of communication between the victim or complainant and the 
patrol unit or units which may be of assistance to him. From 
that point, lines of communication must be open and avail- 
able for immediate transfer of the information to members 
of the patrol force. Until the patrol or operating strength of 
the department is in possession of the essential information, 
all speed and efficiency of communication up to that point has 
been of little avail. 

All indications point to a greater use of the teletypewriter. 
The time is not far distant when interconnecting systems will 
make it possible for all the police forces of the country to unify 
their strength in the detection and suppression of crime 
through the facilities of a national communication network. 

Improvements in design and reduction in cost of units may 
make it possible to place receiving machines on the beat for 
the distribution of printed orders and information to mem- 
bers of the patrol force. Already the radio-controlled type- 
written message in a cruising patrol car presents no difficulty. 
Two-way radio communication, now being rapidly adopted 
by police departments, may be followed by two-way radio- 
controlled typewriter service between the patrol car and the 
central station, and between the patrol cars themselves. 



THE FIRST TRUE SAFE was introduced in New York in the 
early part of the nineteenth century, and soon afterward 
the race began between the safe-builders and the safe-burg- 
lars. Unfortunately, the cause of righteousness has not always 
been victorious, for the sciences and technical knowledge in- 
vested in the construction of burglar-proof safes were soon 
prostituted to the use of the expert cracksmen. When burglars 
worked with crude implements, only a minimum of ingenuity 
was required to frustrate them. The modern burglar, who 
comes to his work with gas-flame equipment generating 6000 
degrees of heat at the tip and capable of biting its way through 
a 12-inch plate of steel at approximately 2600 Fahrenheit, 
presents a far different problem. The modern bank vault is 
the final expression of scientific knowledge and technique in 
the design and construction of an enclosure for the safe-keep- 
ing of money and other valuables, yet it is not impregnable. 
As an example of the desperation, hard labor, and skillful 
direction employed in planning a bank attack, the methods 
used in the burglary of a Pacific Coast bank are illuminating. 
Apparently led by a structural engineer, architect, or some- 
one familiar with the premises, the building construction, and 
the vault arrangement, safe-burglars tunneled for at least 
ten days through earth and concrete preparatory to drilling 
through a bank vault. These tireless workers entered the man- 
hole of a storm drain, some five feet in diameter, at a point 
more than a mile distant from the bank. Right in front of the 
institution, they cut a hole two feet in diameter through the 
six-inch concrete wall of the drain and burrowed forty-six 
feet underground, excavating two tons of earth which they 
piled back into the drain, where the water washed it away. 
The tunnel ended in a vertical shaft under the inner vault, 
which was at the farther end of the bank floor. Here the burg- 


Burglar- and Holdup-alarm Systems 267 

lars drilled a hole upward through the twelve-inch reinforced 
concrete floor of the vault in which the funds of the bank 
were kept. The particular spot where they cut into the vault 
was the only space on the vault floor that was not covered by 
heavy index-file trucks, which were rolled into the vault by 
bookkeepers at the close of each day's business. Had the 
burglars deviated from their course by one foot, they would 
have found themselves underneath either the steel floor of 
the outer vault or one of the file trucks. They knew the route, 
for the tunnel turned on a five-degree bend from the thirty- 
foot point, indicating that their original course was changed 
in order to break through at the one free place. 

For half a century, vault construction remained almost un- 
changed in protective strength. Some modifications were 
made to offset the introduction of nitroglycerin as a weapon 
of attack and mechanical details were refined, but the vaults 
as constructed were considered more or less satisfactory. Sud- 
denly the appearance of the cutter burner, the fluxing rod, 
the electric chisel and hammer, and even the oxygen pipe, in- 
troduced almost overnight a hazardous menace that necessi- 
tated equally revolutionary changes in the structural design 
of vaults. 

Prior to 1920, the materials used in security- vault walls, 
unless the walls were of extreme thickness, were given a 
secondary importance. In the smaller vaults, brickwork was 
frequently used and occasionally concrete with a few steel re- 
inforcing bars. Most of the larger and more important vaults 
were of concrete heavily reinforced. In all of them, however, 
a steel lining constituted the chief resistance to attack. 1 

The principal weapons used in an attack upon a safe were 
drills, explosives, and the torch. Vault engineers and vault 
manufacturers accordingly concentrated their efforts on the 

1 The National Bureau of Casualty and Surety Underwriters, in its 
Manual of Burglary, Theft and Robbery Insurance, defines a vault of 
the highest classification that they have established, No. 10, as follows : 
"No. 10 Vault lined throughout with steel at least l 1 /^ inches thick, or 
of non-reinforced concrete or stone at least 54 inches thick, or of rein- 
forced concrete or stone at least 27 inches thick." 

268 Police Communication Systems 

development of linings which should combine, in several lay- 
ers, drill-resisting materials with other materials designed to 
resist burning. These thicker linings cost more both in mate- 
rials and in fabrication. The various combinations were tested 
in the manufacturers' shops and laboratories, but few, if any, 
extensive tests were attempted under conditions simulating 
an actual criminal or mob attack. 

In 1920, preparatory to its program of branch-bank con- 
struction, the Federal Reserve Bank began a series of tests 
under the direction of Alexander B. Trowbridge, their 
consulting architect, in an effort to establish the relative re- 
sistance of all the known types of vault wall and lining con- 
struction, and to rate these resistances in terms of cost. The 
Federal Eeserve tests were undertaken not to discredit any 
material or method, but merely to establish the relative values 
of materials available for vault construction. 

The test walls were constructed by a reputable contractor 
under careful supervision, and the linings were built and sub- 
mitted by leading vault manufacturers. Concrete consisting 
of carefully graded fine and coarse aggregates and fairly rich 
in cement was found to offer some resistance to all three 
methods of attack drills, explosives, and the flame pro- 
vided that the steel reinforcement extended entirely through 
the walls and at right angles to the direction of attack. 

Further experiments were conducted in the following year 
and details of vault-wall construction were determined which 
provided an increased protection, but in all of them penetra- 
tion was effected under time tests. It is therefore a matter of 
record that the most modern bank vault, representing as it 
does the ultimate development in protective enclosures, is 
susceptible to penetration by the burglar equipped with ade- 
quate tools. In such a state of affairs, the burglary hazard of 
mercantile establishments, where the barriers to entry are 
much less formidable, may be readily appreciated. The jew- 
elry store, the theater, and other commercial institutions are 
liable to attacks not only by the professional but by the ama- 
teur as well, since the locks on doors, windows, skylights, and 

Burglar- and Holdup-alarm Systems 269 

other points of entry, as well as the cracker-box safes and 
strongboxes usually found in these establishments are easily 
mastered by even the most unskilled operator. The ordinary 
home is known among burglars as a "knockover," so simply 
and easily may entry be effected. 

There is a point, moreover, at which an increasing invest- 
ment in material resistance to attack ceases to be profitable. 
Vault construction is costly and it mounts rapidly as the 
effectiveness is increased and the complexity of the devices 
multiplied. It isn't necessary to go far afield in order to dis- 
cover that burglar-resisting materials can never be more than 
burglar-delaying materials. If the burglar has time enough 
and by that is meant no more than a few hours it is safe to 
say that no commercially practicable construction is impreg- 
nable against him. 


Nevertheless, whatever ingenuity can devise to delay the 
burglar must be applied. But the mere prolonging of the safe- 
cracker's or burglar's task is not protection. This delay must 
be so taken advantage of as to prevent the robbery. Obviously 
the first necessity, therefore, of modern burglary protection 
is an adequate alarm system which will deliver a signal to a 
source of help. Many banks invest thousands of dollars in 
massive steel vault equipment, chiefly for the purpose of im- 
pressing customers, and perchance the burglar, but spend 
nothing for alarm protection. The lack of economy, the actual 
loss, indeed, that is incurred through overinvestment in ma- 
terial resistance is rapidly becoming apparent as the value of 
the protective services afforded by the comparatively inex- 
pensive alarm system is being more and more appreciated. 
With an efficient alarm system, a pasteboard box may be made 
more nearly burglar proof than a modern bank not so pro- 

Simply stated, an alarm system consists essentially of a 
mechanical or electrical device, usually a combination of 
both, which will automatically produce a warning signal at 
some specified point simultaneously with an unauthorized ap- 

270 Police Communication Systems 

proach or entry to premises so protected. The alarm system 
holds a key position in the modern police-communication 
plan. Notification of the attack is instantaneous, and, by vir- 
tue of that fact, the first two of the four periods 2 that occa- 
sion delay are at once eliminated. With direct lines from the 
exciting mechanism to the source of help, there is no need 
for a telephone call. Generally speaking, when the crime is 
burglary, there is seldom anyone who can make such a call. 
Through the alarm system, the request for assistance is auto- 
matically synchronized with the attack, and radio-equipped 
patrol cars may be concentrated in the vicinity almost before 
the perpetrators of the crime have had an opportunity to be- 
gin their work. 

Before considering further the means which may be suc- 
cessfully employed for protection against burglary, it is 
necessary to inquire into the nature of the offense, since it 
possesses certain characteristics which have a direct bearing 
upon the design of alarm protection equipment. 3 

Burglary is a crime of stealth in which the first essential 
of success is the undetected entry, and the second is the ele- 
ment of time. After arrival at the premises, the intruder must 
have time to overcome all barriers that oppose his entry. In 
effecting the entry, he may have to touch and move a window, 
a door, a transom, a skylight, and use his hands on locks and 
other protective devices ; and this opens up a wide field in the 
design of burglar-alarm equipment. 

Because of its speed and silence of operation, the electrical 
circuit is the basis for all modern alarm-protection systems. 
The function of that part of a system of electrical protection 
which embraces defense against burglary is to sound or turn 
in automatically an alarm in the event of (1) the opening 
of any door, transom, window, skylight, show window, coal 
chute, or other means of possible entry (the system may be 
extended to include floor, ceiling, and wall areas) ; (2) an 

2 See p. 157. 

8 See Uniform Crime Reporting Manual, Part I, "Classification of Of- 
fenses," for variations in definitions of burglary and robbery among the 
different states. 

Burglar- and Holdup-alarm Systems 271 

attack on the vault walls, ceiling, floor, or door by torch, ex- 
plosives, or other means; (3) an attempt to open the vault 
door at other than the regular hours, or in any other irregular 
manner; (4) an attack on any part of safes, desks, strong- 
boxes, or other enclosures for money and valuables; (5) an 
attempt to cut the wires forming part of the alarm installa- 
tion; or (6) any tampering with any part of the alarm in- 

All modern alarm systems consist essentially of (1) appa- 
ratus for manually or automatically setting the alarm cir- 
cuits into play the exciting mechanism; (2) transmission 
lines between the protected area and the point of alarm des- 
tination; and (3) visual or audible signal apparatus at the 
alarm terminal or destination. 



The simplest of all expedients designed to frustrate the burg- 
lar, that of contacting surfaces, is familiar to layman and 
expert alike. All devices in this category consist primarily of 
two electric contacts, the disturbance of which will actuate the 
alarm circuit by one of two methods, the open circuit and the 
closed circuit. 

The open circuit. In principle the open circuit is exactly 
what the name implies. This rudimentary form of electrical 
protection includes the exciting unit, which in the circuit is 
the open contact, a source of current supply, and the terminal 
alarm-signal device. Its most significant function, however, 
is the opening of the circuit at the location of the contacts. 
Normally, no current flows through the alarm circuit. Con- 
tact surfaces are attached at doors, windows, skylights, and 
other strategic points in such manner that the unauthorized 
entry of an intruder will bring the two surfaces together, 
thus completing an electrical connection which closes the cir- 
cuit and permits a flow of current to the terminal alarm sig- 
nal. Although the open circuit is the most simple of all in 
design and construction, it has the serious disadvantage that 

272 Police Communication Systems 

the circuit wiring may be cut or otherwise tampered with, 
resulting in a complete paralysis of the system. 

The closed circuit. In the design of modern alarm systems 
generally, the closed circuit possesses marked advantages 
over the open circuit. It overcomes the principal weakness of 
the open circuit because the alarm signal is thrown into op- 
eration by an opening of the circuit. Any tampering with or 
cutting of alarm-circuit wires therefore results in an instan- 
taneous signal at the alarm terminal. 

Relays or galvanometers installed in this circuit to start 
the alarms are so adjusted that any marked increase in re- 
sistance with a consequent decrease in current value, or any 
decrease in resistance with a consequent increase in current 
value, causes them to operate. The function of these relays is 
to transform into alarms the breaks or grounds on the elec- 
trical wiring that are caused by mechanical interference. 
They consist of an electromagnetic coil, responsive to changes 
in potential, the armatures of which close circuits of bells, 
lights, and other registering or indicating devices at the alarm 

Such devices must be sensitive enough to respond to com- 
paratively small changes of current value. They perform a 
function somewhat similar to that of a gauge on a pressure 
system. The movement of a sensitive gauge will indicate small 
fluctuations of pressure, plus or minus. All approved burglar- 
alarm relays are designed on a like principle, and the circuit 
becomes what is known as a balanced circuit. This arrange- 
ment offers effective protection against any attempt to "short- 
cut" the wires, substitute false lines, or any other method of 
circuit attack, since such disturbances would immediately up- 
set the balance or equilibrium of the circuit and result in an 

The galvanometer is perhaps more sensitive, but it is some- 
what sluggish in action as compared with the relay. However, 
there is no great difference in their efficiency, and either type 
is used, depending upon consideration of battery sources and 
circuit. Where relays are used, they are in duplicate, one re- 

Burglar- and Holdup-alarm Systems 273 

lay being used as an overload and the other as an underload. 
The galvanometer is equipped with contacts on either side of 
the armature, so that a movement of the armature in either 
direction will short an alarm. 

The contact form of exciting mechanism may consist of con- 
tact springs on doors and windows, tin-foil circuits on glass, 
wooden screens carrying concealed wiring, and wall protec- 
tion consisting of lacing wire imbedded in wooden strips or 
foiling pasted on asbestos wall-covering material. These de- 
vices depend for their operation primarily upon the mechan- 
ical displacement of some part of the circuit, and they are 
particularly well adapted to the modus operandi employed 
in most forms of criminal entry. 

Two general methods are used in the installation of the 
contact type of alarm-exciting mechanism in a bank or com- 
mercial vault, In one a grillwork of cables is used, and in the 
other the protective material is a lining. Where the grillwork 
installation is used, lead-covered wires or cables are imbedded 
in the masonry when the vault is built, tests being maintained 
continuously during their installation, and also during the 
pouring of concrete. The wires are generally set at approxi- 
mately three-inch centers and are connected in different cir- 
cuits, depending on the size of the vault, in such manner that 
no two wires of the same circuit are adjacent to each other. 
Linings are installed either on the outside or on the interior 
of the vault (the interior lining is better adapted to existing 
structures) in the form of a special sensitive material de- 
scribed as an "open and closed circuit lining," which in turn 
is covered by light steel plates to protect it against accidental 
penetration. Another form provides wires protected by some 
form of envelope other than steel, such as plaster, or other 
fairly firm material. 

Anyone familiar with the characteristics of hard concrete 
knows that the cutting or breaking of this material requires 
the use of a sledgehammer, drill, or explosives ; the forcing 
of a vault without breaking cables or penetrating the lining 
is not even probable. This method of protection, however, is 

274 Police Communication Systems 

apt to be expensive and generally has been superseded by the 
use of sound- and heat-sensitive detectors installed on the in- 
terior of the vault. 


The evolution and perfection of the microphone in the tele- 
phone and radio industries made available a most effective 
instrument for burglary protection. These devices are ex- 
tremely sensitive to sound waves of even low amplitude, and 
are now in wide use in modern alarm systems designed for 
protection against vault attacks. 

Microphone detectors may be secreted at various places in- 
side the bank, but are usually placed within the vault proper. 
Although the vault walls provide effective insulation against 
ordinary noise disturbances, these instruments are adjusted 
to pick up the slightest noise, and any attempt on the vault 
is promptly transmitted to the detectors, whether the attack 
is made by chiseling, drilling, or explosion. This type of de- 
tector is so sensitive that it is set in operation by the sounds 
produced by burning-tools, such as the acetylene torch and 
the electric arc. The slightest contact of the vault door, floor, 
ceiling, or walls, with hammer, drill, explosive, or other tool 
is sufficient to operate the sensitive microphone and speed the 
alarm to its destination. 


These devices have been widely adopted in fire protection, 
and they are excellent aids to burglary protection. A heat- 
sensitive detector is most useful when the burglar, in his at- 
tack upon the safe, vault, or other enclosure, employs the 
oxyacetylene torch, oxygen pipe, electric arc, or other heat- 
generating accessories which are the usual tools of the pro- 
fessional. It generally makes use of the familiar principles of 
either the thermostat or the thermometer. It is installed in- 
side the vault or other enclosure, where any fractional-degree 
rise in the surrounding temperature is sufficient to throw the 
alarm circuit into play. 

Burglar- and Holdup-alarm Systems 275 


This comparatively simple and powerful electrical protec- 
tive device promises to play an increasingly important role 
in the design and installation of modern alarm systems. With 
a slight improvement in equipment and technique so as to se- 
cure the projection of these light rays over greater distances, 
its use will increase by leaps and bounds. It is adaptable to 
any standard current supply, and any number of positions 
can be protected from one control point. 

The modern photoelectric relay, as used for commercial and 
industrial purposes, consists of a caesium-type photoelectric 
tube, the signal from which is amplified by a triode tube. The 
units are generally arranged to operate on an alternating 
current, a transformer supplying the necessary voltages for 
the various parts of the circuit. When light falls on the cell, 
the half- wave pulsating direct current in the plate circuit of 
the tube rises. Conversely, as the light reaching the cell de- 
creases, the plate current drops almost instantaneously. An 
electromagnetic relay in the plate circuit is therefore oper- 
ated each time the plate current changes. Relay contacts may 
be used to control any sort of local circuit, such as alarm sig- 
nals, electric lights, motors, power switches, electric counters, 
door-openers and other devices, all through the mere change 
in the illumination falling upon the photoelectric cell. 

In operation, this device is controlled by the illumination 
intensity of a beam of light falling upon its surface. A con- 
centrated beam of light may, through the use of mirrors, be 
made to travel over a predetermined area, and its interrup- 
tion by any object will cause a change in the output current 
of the light-sensitive cell. This change in output current re- 
sults in the operation of the signal circuit proper. It is thus 
possible to blanket a protected object or interior with a screen 
of light of any desired shape. Penetration of the light wall by 
any object puts the alarm circuits into play. 

Through the use of cells susceptible to the rays of invisible 
light, and certain light filters, it is possible to make the entire 

276 Police Communication Systems 

control invisible. No object brought into the path of these 
rays can be seen as illuminated or casting a shadow. Such 
light walls of "black light," unknown and invisible to the in- 
truder, automatically operate alarm circuits when penetrated 
or interrupted in any way. A system of this kind, in which 
invisible light rays are the basic principle of operation, is 
used to protect the Shah of Persia's jewels, which form part 
of the Persian Art Exhibition at Burlington House, in Lon- 
don. Two ornamental pedestals stand in front of the show- 
case that holds the Shah's jewels ; one contains the lamp which 
projects the ray of invisible light, and the other holds what 
is termed the radio-visor bridge, or photoelectric cell unit. 
There is no outward sign of any protection, all the mechanical 
parts of the apparatus being concealed. 

When, from any cause, the beam is obscured, a silent alarm 
is carried to predetermined points from which armed assist- 
ance may be instantly dispatched. As the ray gives no indica- 
tion of its presence, it is impossible for the burglar to know 
where or how the device is installed. Any attempt to pass or 
reach beyond the invisible-ray barrier is thus frustrated. A 
finger, or the tip of an umbrella, is sufficient to break the cir- 
cuit and send in an alarm. Any point of approach, such as 
windows, doors, staircases, corridors, or the approach to a 
safe, can be similarly guarded with photoelectric equipment 
already available. Two of the most recent installations in 
England were made at the International Exhibition of Per- 
sian Art and the Scottish Art Exhibition, but the system has 
already been installed in government offices, banks, ware- 
houses, town and country houses, as well as numerous mer- 
cantile establishments. 


The radio-frequency circuit is designed to detect and re- 
port the approach of an object through the amplification of 
changes in the inductive and capacitive characteristics of the 
surrounding air. A similar device makes use of changes in the 
electrical fields surrounding the object to be protected against 

Burglar- and Holdup-alarm Systems 277 

approach. Application of the radio circuit to alarm installa- 
tions is based upon the fact that, if an object is brought near 
an oscillating circuit which is not shielded, changes occur in 
the tuning of this circuit. Such changes, known to all radio 
experimenters as being due to body capacity, cause very defi- 
nite variations in the current characteristics of the circuits. 
These variations may be easily amplified and used to move 
the necessary relay apparatus. Essentially, the movement of 
an object, or any other variable factor in relation to the sensi- 
tive apparatus, causes a variation in the self -inductance or ca- 
pacity of the oscillating system. This, in turn, brings about a 
variation in the period of oscillation, which is reflected in the 
operation of relays associated with the signal circuit proper. 
Experimentally, it has been possible with this type of appa- 
ratus to detect the presence of objects as they came within a 
radius of twenty feet. 

Almost any scientific device that is sensitive to a fluctu- 
ation or change in surrounding normal conditions can be 
adapted to alarm-installation purposes. A student at North- 
western University, for example, recently constructed a burg- 
lary-detection device in which two heavily charged electrical 
coils were so disposed in a door frame that the intervening 
space was blanketed by a strong magnetic field. The passage 
of a person with a revolver or other metal object concealed 
in his clothing would put the alarm circuits in operation. 
Many other applications of this and similar apparatus are 
possible. The field of burglary-detection equipment presents 
to designers a rare opportunity for the refinement and per- 
fection of alarm technique and operation. 

In respect to the crime of robbery, however, the design of 
the exciting mechanism is more complicated, because, pri- 
marily, of the inherent characteristics of the crime. Robbery 
is an offense against both person and property. It has all the 
essential elements of larceny, with the additional requirement 
that the property must be taken from the person of the vic- 
tim or from his immediate presence, and against his will, by 
means of force or fear. Let us therefore consider as briefly 

278 Police Communication Systems 

as possible some of the conditions surrounding robbery be- 
fore taking up the types of alarm protection against robbery 
that are in more or less common use. 

The hazard of interior robbery captures the public atten- 
tion because of the ingenuity of the attacks and the hazard to 
both property and life. The very methods of modern business 
make shops, theaters, banks, gas stations, and similar estab- 
lishments easily accessible and susceptible to daylight rob- 

A question that disturbs the ordered thoughts of almost 
every banker is, How can he keep the doors swung wide in 
public welcome and still keep out the gunman? He invites 
personal consultations more than ever before, and this has 
stimulated architects and manufacturers of bank equipment 
to lower the counter screen; also to decrease the barriers be- 
tween teller and depositor. (Likewise, the broad exposure of 
small retail premises to daylight raid is a direct result of 
modern relations between merchants and their customers.) 
As a guard against repeated holdups, one bank decided to 
keep its doors locked at all times. 4 Depositors must show the 
proper credentials before they can enter, and strangers are 
kept waiting at the door until they can be looked over by the 
town constable. 

The comparative ease and suddenness with which the day- 
light robbery may be carried out has attracted the attention 
of the underworld. Many erstwhile professional burglars and 
criminals in other lines of endeavor have turned to robbery 
as a fruitful field, since they have felt that the risk and the 
labor are less when they can strike quickly, with draw y n guns, 
and jump into a waiting automobile with the loot. The bank 
bandits of today rank among those criminals who rarely act 
on an impulse of the moment, but rather plan their crimes 
with the utmost care. Advance scouts are usually detailed to 
"case" the premises, and they are chosen not to participate in 
the actual holdup, but for their ability to analyze and report 
upon the strong and weak points in the routine, personnel, 

4 State Bank, Georgetown, 111. 

Burglar- and Holdup-alarm Systems 279 

alarm equipment, and whatever police protection the bank 
may have. Time, secrecy, and fear are the essential elements 
in successful robbery. Where bonds, money, and other valu- 
ables are objectives, the criminal must strike fast and dis- 
appear quickly. The main requirement is speed. 

Burglary, generally speaking, is an attack against prop- 
erty, and robbery is an attack against both person and prop- 
erty. It is essential in robbery that the criminal approach the 
victim personally, and by means of force or fear complete the 
crime. The average time required to complete a bank robbery 
is less than two minutes ; a burglary may be a matter of a few 
minutes or, again, an entire week-end. A study made in 1923 
of 150 bank robberies in Los Angeles revealed that, in almost 
every one of them, the offense was committed in less than three 
minutes. Furthermore, the burglar encounters any number 
of physical barriers in effecting entry; the daylight bandit 
walks through an open door. 

The problem of placing the robbery-alarm circuits in op- 
eration is therefore more involved than is that of the burglar- 
alarm. In most of the holdup-alarm installations, the "touch 
off" is accomplished by means of contact devices such as push 
buttons and f ootrails placed at convenient points in the bank 
interior. There are many variations of this device, but they all 
require manual or pedal operation, usually by the victim. 

This method of originating the alarm signal, although bet- 
ter than no protection at all, is open to serious criticism, since 
the victim may have to risk his life in order to send in the 
alarm. Bandits invariably warn their victims to this effect, 
and bank employees have been wounded and killed upon mak- 
ing suspected movements toward an alarm control button. 

Another serious disadvantage of the manually operated 
alarm is the involuntary paralysis of the victim in the pres- 
ence of extreme danger. Even though the opportunity may 
be afforded, the alarm has failed to come through in many 
bank robberies, because of the inability of fear-struck victims 
to function normally. 

There is one method, however, that has been widely en- 

280 Police Communication Systems 

dorsed by police officials as an effective exciting agent for a 
robbery-alarm system. Wherever used, it has functioned with 
great success. Although it is a form of manually operated 
contact, this device removes the responsibility for setting the 
alarm circuits in play from the victim and places it upon the 
shoulders of the bandit. This is accomplished by so placing 
circuit contacts as to take advantage of the normal physical 
movements of the bandit in the course of his ordinary move- 
ments within the bank. The design and the placing of these 
contacts make an interesting problem, since there is involved 
a study of criminal psychology and the modus operandi of 
robbery in general, in order to select the points where these 
traps are likely to be disturbed. 

Since the object of attack in bank robbery is invariably 
currency, most of these devices are built into specially de- 
signed currency trays, drawers, or other containers for money 
and other valuables. One instrument now available makes it 
possible for the employees, while actually carrying out the 
commands of the bandit, to start an alarm without attracting 
attention. Important elements in this system, which has a re- 
markable record of efficiency, include a cleverly concealed 
button on cash drawers so placed that the cashier can press 
it when he opens a drawer ; also a false bottom so arranged 
that a slight pressure downward when removing the bills will 
flash the alarm. Other arrangements provide for carefully 
concealed springs in currency trays so disposed that the re- 
moval of currency therefrom excites the alarm circuit. Such 
trays usually contain dummy stacks of currency and are 
placed at a conspicuous spot near the teller's window. 

The possible applications of this principle to holdup-alarm 
installations are almost unlimited. 


Connecting lines of communication between the exciting 
mechanism and the alarm terminal or destination usually 
take the form of direct-wire circuits, and they should be so 
arranged that there shall be no tampering with them. Such 

Burglar- and Holdup-alarm Systems 281 

lines, if available, may be leased from the telephone com- 
panies, or they may be installed. Each connecting circuit and 
its associated equipment, both on the protected premises and 
at the alarm destination, should be under constant electrical 
supervision, so that a failure of any part of the system will 
be automatically indicated. Authorities have estimated that 
about 20 per cent of the value of an alarm system lies in the 
apparatus, and that the remaining 80 per cent is a function 
of expert supervision and care of the equipment. The con- 
tinued efficient operation of any alarm system is entirely de- 
pendent upon this supervision and maintenance. 

Transmission of the alarm signal to its destination is not 
restricted to independent land wires specially installed or 
leased for alarm-system purposes. There has recently been de- 
veloped a system known as the multifold carrier current 
control system which may entirely revolutionize the use of 
land- wire communication facilities. By means of it, the alarm 
signal may be transmitted to its destination over existing 
power and telephone lines ; and this, of course, would result 
in a very large reduction in the cost of installation and opera- 
tion. The arrangement provides for a small and inexpensive 
vacuum-tube circuit on the protected premises, capable of 
transmitting frequencies of from 1500 to 3000 cycles. It is 
only necessary to connect the output of this instrument to 
the conventional telephone or light socket, thus eliminating 
the necessity for installation of alarm-system transmission 
lines. The receiving element at the alarm terminal consists 
of a tuned circuit and relay, which will respond to the trans- 
mitted frequency, and which, again, is connected to the com- 
mercial telephone or power lines. In a typical situation a 
transmitted frequency of say 2500 cycles is superimposed over 
the 60-cycle lighting current. This 60-cycle frequency has no 
effect whatsoever upon the received alarm signal, nor do the 
alarm frequencies interfere in any way with the operation 
of the power-line service. This absence of mutual interfer- 
ence is also shown where telephone lines are the transmitting 

282 Police Communication Systems 

Destination of the alarm may be defined as the point at 
which an alarm signal makes itself manifest. This is a highly 
important point, since there seems to be an inherent weakness 
in this respect in a large number of alarm installations. There 
are two general types of system and destination : one is the 
centralized system, in which the alarm signal is silently trans- 
mitted direct to police headquarters, or to a police substation, 
or to a central commercial alarm agency, which sends its own 
armed riders, and in turn relays the news of the alarm to the 
police ; the other system provides for the sounding of a loud 
alarm on the premises, either inside or outside, or both, so 
that everyone in the vicinity may hear it. 

The local or loud alarm consists of a loud gong installed on 
the outside of the place to be protected, usually in front in 
order to attract the attention of a maximum number of peo- 
ple, and connected to suitable push buttons arranged at con- 
venient points inside. Numerous alarm installations employ 
this device, which is mounted high enough above the sidewalk 
to forestall ordinary tampering. Those who advocate the use 
of the local alarm base their opinions in large part upon its 
value in the frustration of both burglary and robbery, since 
experience has brought to light the fact that no burglar or 
bandit can "stand up" against the sound of a large gong or 
bell in the immediate vicinity. The desire for a safe escape at 
any cost becomes irresistible. It is a matter of record that 
many bank robberies and burglaries have been frustrated 
through the use of this device. 

The local alarm, however, has certain fundamental weak- 
nesses which cannot be overlooked. In large cities, the alarms 
receive scant attention ; the sound does not carry any appre- 
ciable distance, arid the nearest policeman may be several 
blocks away when he is needed. 

Again, if the burglar sets off a local alarm system, he hears 
it just as soon as anyone else, and usually can escape without 
detection. In combating the holdup, local alarms are even less 
effective. In holdups, criminals work fast, depending a great 
deal on the fear of the employees. Employees quite naturally 

Burglar- and Holdup-alarm Systems 283 

are reluctant to sound an alarm when they are looking into 
the face of a criminal with a loaded revolver in his hand. In- 
deed, it may be foolhardy to do so ; from nervousness or vin- 
dictiveness the intruder will very likely shoot. Still another 
disadvantage is the inevitable assembling of a crowd, imped- 
ing the police and increasing the hazard of injury and death 
to innocent bystanders. But the disadvantage of the local 
alarm which commends it to the museum is the fact that al- 
though it may frustrate the completion of the crime, it in- 
variably frustrates the efforts of the police to apprehend the 
criminals. The moment the alarm is sounded, the bandits are 
on their way to cover ; the police have little chance to make 
the necessary arrests, and as a result there must be long and 
detailed investigation before the case is finally disposed of, 
the cost of which falls, of course, upon the community. 

The local or outside alarm owes its continued existence to 
its very low initial cost. It is the cheapest form of alarm in- 
stallation and it frequently proves in the end to be the most 
expensive. The underwriting companies regard it as of a very 
limited value, and some of the large companies do not give 
any consideration to it or make any allowance for its use. 

In the centralized system of alarm control, a silent alarm 
signal is transmitted to some distant point, remote from 
the scene of the crime. The terminal signal device may be 
installed in adjacent or near-by offices or business establish- 
ments, from which, when the alarm signal is heard, a message 
may be telephoned to the police. In other installations, the 
alarm system is wired direct to the central offices of privately 
operated alarm-system companies, which maintain motorized 
armed patrols ready for immediate response to an alarm. 
Such organizations generally have direct-wire connections 
with the police department, in order that the police, too, may 
be promptly notified. 

One alarm-system company has 117 central stations and 
gives a centralized alarm protection service to more than 300 
large municipalities in different parts of the United States. 
Besides burglar- and holdup-alarm service, these organiza- 

284 Police Communication Systems 

tioiis have developed an organized supervision of night 
watchmen, who are frequently the victims of holdups. If the 
watchman's activities are supervised by a central station, 
armed guards are instantly dispatched if the hourly report- 
ing-in signal is delayed. Criminals are often familiar with 
this fact, and when they raid a factory or building thus pro- 
tected they may force the watchman to make his regular round 
of signals. To meet this situation, central station operating 
companies install on the watchman's route "emergency" sta- 
tions which look just like the ordinary ones. But the emer- 
gency boxes are operated only in the event of a holdup, and 
a signal from one of them ensures quick action by the guards 
at the central station and the local police. The intruders have 
DO way of knowing that a call for assistance has been sent. 

Many banks and commercial institutions, particularly in 
the smaller cities, are rapidly adopting the type of installa- 
tion in which all alarm-transmission lines are wired direct to 
police headquarters. In respect to police efficiency, this is the 
most desirable of all the types of alarm installation, and the 
design of alarm systems will in the future probably follow 
this pattern. 

Up to the present, the advantages of alarm service have 
been available for only a selected kind of property, and muni- 
cipal governments have not always felt that, in order to give 
a specialized service, they could properly use taxes allocated 
for general police protection. Moreover, city governments 
are subject to periodic change, and succeeding administra- 
tions may well have different policies. All the varying opin- 
ions of changing administrations and the lack of continuity in 
policy and program have, in some measure at least, retarded 
the development of a centralized police control of alarm sys- 
tems and have provided the opportunity for the expansion of 
commercially operated alarm companies. The privately oper- 
ated companies deal with their clients on a commercial basis, 
and give an excellent service. The apparatus is kept in perfect 
condition, staffs of experts are maintained to see that the cir- 
cuits are properly supervised and operated, and trained per- 

Burglar- and Holdup-alarm Systems 285 

soiinel at the central stations respond to the alarms with a 
minimum of lost time and motion. Nevertheless, this sort of 
protection is properly a police function in the interest of the 
whole community, and the responsibility for the pursuit and 
arrest of the criminal rests upon the police department. In 
the interest of law enforcement, therefore, the present shar- 
ing of this function with a private agency serving a special 
group in the community must some day give way to a new 
order, in which the alarm-protection network of the commu- 
nity will become an integral unit in the police communication 


A false alarm is the result of an accidental or deliberate oper- 
ation of the alarm system without justifiable cause and in the 
absence of any criminal approach. From the beginning of 
alarm installations, the false alarm has been a characteristic 
weakness of all protective systems, and it has come to be ac- 
cepted as an inescapable evil. 

Alarm systems are so designed that breaks, grounds, or 
crosses between the two sides of the circuit will occasion sig- 
nals. Despite the use of the best material and the greatest 
care in installation and supervision, false alarms are bound 
to occur. The unit of an electrical alarm system, such as 
lacing-wire, and wire used in screens and wall protection, 
must be of small gauge, so that it cannot be handled without 
breaking ; otherwise, wires might be spread or otherwise ma- 
nipulated so as to afford entrance to protected premises. The 
only effective method of protecting show-window glass is to 
paste foil on its surface, and the gauge of this foil must be 
such that it will rupture when the glass is broken. 

All this delicate wiring is exposed to accidental trouble. 
Window washers and workmen making repairs about the 
premises may accidentally rupture the alarm circuit. Water 
leaking from pipes or blowing in from rainstorms may cause 
short circuits. Even rats and mice have been known to 
occasion alarms. Corroded contacts, defective insulation, 
inefficient or defective relays, weak or broken springs, trans- 

286 Police Communication Systems 

mission-line trouble, short circuits, alarm-terminal defects, 
and numerous other circuit factors may operate to cause a 
false alarm. Yet this hazard may be minimized, if not com- 
pletely eliminated, by the selection right at the start of an 
alarm system manufactured by a reputable and responsible 
company, and expertly installed, supervised, and maintained. 

Carelessness of employees in protected banks and other 
institutions causes a large number of false alarms. Proper in- 
struction and educational work will do much to eliminate this 
hazard. It not infrequently happens that all the employees 
are not properly informed about the system of protection pro- 
vided. The author, with several other officers, once responded 
to a false bank alarm which affords an interesting commen- 
tary. Of five bank tellers and clerks, only two knew the 
locations of all the alarm contact buttons. Besides the hazard 
which this implied in the event of a robbery, there was also 
the likelihood of a larger number of accidental contacts. 

Some authorities advocate imposing a penalty upon the 
person responsible for this sort of false alarm. In view of the 
risk and hazard that is connected with the response to an 
alarm, this proposal does not appear so radical when all 
aspects of the question are weighed. The imposition of a small 
penalty by the personnel officer of the institution concerned 
would undoubtedly help to eliminate the evil. 

A certain police department had been annoyed by the fre- 
quent arrival of false alarms. These became so numerous that, 
as a temporary respite from the unnecessary dispatching of 
the armed guards, the desk sergeant adopted the practice of 
telephoning the institution in which the alarm originated as 
a means of reducing the number of interruptions to patrol 
activity. Usually, this meant only the recording of another 
false alarm. But on one occasion a bank robber answered the 
telephone, and in response to the desk sergeant's inquiry, 
"Everything 0. K.?" replied, "Everything 0. K." In this 
happy state of freedom from further molestation the crimi- 
nal completed his robbery in a leisurely manner with a safe 
escape from the premises assured. 

Burglar- and Holdup-alarm Systems 287 

It is an unwritten police law that an incoming alarm is to 
be considered genuine and summary action taken, until the 
contrary fact is known. The discipline and practice gained by 
answering false alarms may be of great value in the formula- 
tion of tactical patrol plans of operation. The drill will indi- 
cate to commanding officers weak points in the scheme of 
emergency-patrol operation and point the way to improve- 
ment a revision of dispatching procedure, perhaps, or of 
the routes of patrol concentration, covering plans, and other 
important aspects of emergency work. An alert organization 
may develop from this erstwhile annoyance much useful 

Repeated false alarms may also result, however, in a "let- 
down" in morale or in what may be termed "fighting inter- 
est." In this respect the false alarm is a dangerous affair. The 
suspicion that the alarm is probably false makes for relaxed 
vigilance and a dissipation of alertness and other qualities 
essential in facing a potential emergency. Then, too, it is to 
be remembered that an alarm response involves a rapid con- 
centration of patrol units closing in on the location at speeds 
far above the average for city thoroughfares, with attendant 
hazards to life and property. False alarms cause a needless 
exposure to these risks. The objections to false alarms are far 
greater, of course, both in respect to public interests and the 
efficiency of the police department, than any value that these 
alarms may have as a school of instruction. 


The establishment of a nationally recognized agency for the 
examination, testing, and rating of alarm equipment has been 
of great service. By setting up a standard and uniform sys- 
tem of rating, this organization has exerted a wide influence 
in the improvement of alarm devices and of the services de- 
pendent upon their operation. 

Underwriters' Laboratories, Inc., chartered by the state 
of Illinois in November, 1901, is authorized to establish and 
maintain laboratories for the examination and testing of de- 

288 Police Communication Systems 

vices, systems, and materials for the purpose of reporting 
thereon to insurance organizations. The corporation was es- 
tablished and is maintained by the National Board of Fire 
Underwriters for service, not for profit. 

The insurance interests which pay the burglary and holdup 
losses are keenly interested in alarm systems. Field under- 
writers, not being experts in electrical equipment, proved un- 
able to determine whether or not an alarm system installed 
on a risk was of sufficient value to merit recognition in the 
form of reduced premiums. In 1925, the National Bureau of 
Casualty Underwriters requested the Underwriters' Labora- 
tories to set up standards for, examine, and pass upon burglar 
and holdup alarm systems for which the owners wanted rec- 
ognition in the amount of the insurance premium. Under this 
arrangement, a company proposing to install an alarm sys- 
tem must take the devices to the Laboratories, and these 
devices must pass certain tests and requirements before the 
recognition is granted. In the awarding of a contract for an 
alarm installation, therefore, a comparison of the relative 
merits of the various systems as reported by the Underwrit- 
ers' Laboratories should be the decisive factor. Some systems 
just barely "get under the wire," so far as the corporation 
is concerned, and others give protection far in excess of its 

The object of Underwriters' Laboratories is to determine 
by reasonable, practical, and independent investigation, the 
relation of devices, systems, and materials to life, fire, and 
collision hazards, and to theft and accident prevention. Dur- 
ing the past ten years this work, undertaken as one means 
of reducing the enormous and disproportionate loss of life 
and property by fire, theft, and accident, has done much to 
improve the electrical design, electrical supervision, tamper- 
proof qualities, and maintenance of alarm systems. Besides 
separating alarm systems in respect to types, the corporation 
further classifies them in respect to grade or merit, Grade A 
being the highest classification. Individual installations may 
vary still further in respect to extent or completeness. 

Burglar- and Holdup-alarm Systems 289 

The comprehensive testing; equipment of the Laboratories 
in the hands of its staff and of experienced engineers affords 
exceptional facilities for the work that the corporation has 
undertaken. Its long experience and the methods used for 
keeping in close touch with manufacturers, users, inspection 
bureaus, and other sources of practical information have 
secured a wide acceptance of its standards and recommenda- 
tions. The great potential value to banks and similar institu- 
tions of its accumulation of sound research data will only be 
realized, however, as the pressure of insurance companies and 
public opinion creates a demand for safeguards against rob- 
bery and burglary that are designed to meet the numerous, 
individual hazards. 

Annual lists of devices approved by the Underwriters' Lab- 
oratories are widely distributed, also semiannual supplemen- 
tary lists of the manufacturers whose devices are listed. The 
devices are subject to appropriate inspection by the corpora- 
tion's inspectors and engineers. It is the consensus among 
police officers that 110 alarm equipment should be purchased 
that has not been approved by the Laboratories. 

Comment should be made, however, upon the approval and 
recognition by the Underwriters' Laboratories of the outside 
gong or local alarm installation on the premises a logical 
result of the close relationship existing between the testing 
agency and the insurance companies. With respect to the in- 
surance risk, frustration of a burglary or robbery constitutes 
protection since loss of the insured property has been pre- 
vented. Law enforcement requires, in addition, apprehension 
of the lawbreaker. Mere frustration of a crime does not solve 
the larger problem of reducing the potential crime total of a 
community, which continues as a direct threat to insured 
risks of all kinds. Elimination of the opportunity to commit 
crime must be supplemented by treatment of the desire to 
attack. Certainty of arrest and speedy disposition of cases in 
the trial court are important elements in any broad program 
of crime prevention and detection. This broader view must 
eventually lead to a combination of the two interests, and to 

290 Police Communication Systems 

the concentration of alarm-communication facilities in the 
police department as the law-enforcing agency of society. 

Insurance companies give substantial discounts on pre- 
miums for burglar-alarm systems of both the local and the 
centralized types that have been installed on bank vaults, 
and for some classes of systems installed on mercantile prem- 
ises, depending, of course, in all installations, upon the com- 
pleteness of the wiring. The certificate of the Underwriters' 
Laboratories appears on between fifteen and twenty thousand 
alarm installations in various sections of the country. This 
in itself would seem to indicate that it is either necessary 
or profitable for the merchant or bank to install some form of 
alarm protection. 

Obviously, the economic saving effected through the instal- 
lation of an efficient alarm system depends somewhat upon 
the size of the risk, or its value in dollars and cents, if we elim- 
inate from the equation altogether the value of life. It is gen- 
erally considered in insurance circles and among those who 
have benefited through alarm installations over a long period 
of time, that the saving on insurance premiums alone is suffi- 
cient to pay for the maintenance of the protection and give a 
return of 6 per cent on the investment therein, with amortiza- 
tion of the entire cost of the equipment over a comparatively 
short period of years. With continuing improvement in alarm- 
system equipment and technique, this economic return will 
become greater. 

Robbery protection is a newer development, in which, also, 
the human element and ingenuity of the robber plays a larger 
part. Underwriting companies have not thus far been inclined 
to give as substantial recognition to robbery-alarm systems as 
to burglary-protection equipment. Premium rates for insur- 
ance against robbery are a simple but illuminating story, and 
a fair index as well to the changing trend in bank robbery. 

Nine years ago the night burglary hazard in banking was 
so much greater than the daylight robbery hazard that insur- 
ance premiums for robbery risk ranged from one-fourth to 
one-half of the burglary rate. Until 1918, the holdup coverage 

Burglar- and Holdup-alarm Systems 291 

was "thrown in" with the burglary and robbery policies for 
good measure. Today the reverse is true, and in some states 
the gap between premiums on the two risks has steadily wid- 
ened. Authentic reports show an increase in bank robberies 
from 143 losses in 1921 to 292 losses in 1928 and 402 losses 
in 1930 ; interior or store robbery losses mounted from 550 
claims in 1921 to approximately 3000 in 1927. Stated in an- 
other way, there is about one holdup each hour in every day 
that commercial institutions are open for business. 

It is significant that one of every three bank burglaries 
attempted in the past two years has been frustrated; or at 
least the loss has been from damage done, and not in money 
or securities. If experience means anything, science and in- 
vention have caught up with the burglar, and many bankers 
in making their selection of the protective devices thus made 
available have shown at least the same care that the burglar 
shows in his preparation for the attack. This is not true in re- 
spect to the banker's defensive measures against daylight 
holdups directed against undermanned or unguarded banks. 
In contrast with the banker's efforts in foiling one out of 
every three burglary attempts, he fares considerably worse 
against the robber : the records show that only one holdup is 
frustrated out of every seven attacks. Moreover, the average 
haul in a bank holdup is much greater than in a burglary. 


Two of the earliest recorded bank robberies in Iowa were the 
work of two gangs apparently independent of each other. 
About six months later, a succession of bank burglaries began 
throughout the state. As these crimes were run down, the per- 
petrators were found to be typical of the old-time bank burg- 
lar, whose custom it was to loaf on his takings. 

All the members of both organizations were sent to prison. 
Later, with the assistance of friends on the outside, the mem- 
bers of one gang shot their way out of jail, killing the sheriff's 
son, but they were captured and sent to prison for life. 

Just a little later the Federal government, cooperating 

292 Police Communication Systems 

with the St. Louis Police Department, rounded up and sent 
to the penitentiary some twenty-eight members of the Col- 
beck, Cuckoo, and Egan gangs, thereby bringing to a close a 
long and desperate series of bank robberies. Still later, there 
was encountered in Illinois a gang of between fifty and a hun- 
dred bank burglars and robbers, who were more or less of the 




of bandits 




or officers 


Indiana. . . . 



$ 398,245 

f Cashier 






1 killed; 

j officer 






Michigan.. . 




$ 90,000 

Nebraska. . . 














Wisconsin. . 







7 states... 








* Source: Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 23 (1933), p. 799. 

old school. This almost unheard-of organization of so many 
thieves with wide criminal experience did not bear any ear- 
marks of a national organization, as their activities were 
mostly confined to the state of Illinois. These men engaged in 
what is termed "independent bank robbery." The losses sus- 
tained by their activities were heavy, but they pale into insig- 
nificance when compared with the amount of loot obtained by 
bank-robbery syndicates (see the accompanying table). 

By the year 1925, the police realized that each year a few 
bank robberies were taking place in the middle western states, 
with losses generally running at from $100,000 to $500,000. 
Furthermore, in each of these robberies, it was evident that 
the premises had been well surveyed and that the holdup had 

Burglar- and Holdup-alarm Systems 293 

been committed by men of a different type from the partici- 
pants in independent bank robbery. These bank robbers con- 
stituted in fact a syndicate, and were rarely apprehended. 

The participants in syndicated bank robbery are an older, 
more vicious type of person and as a rule they have long crim- 
inal records. They spare no expense in equipping themselves 
with every possible weapon of defense, including machine 
guns, tear gas, automobile smoke screens, and other devices. 
They are strongly intrenched politically, and usually have 
very definite protective arrangements with some high officials 
in the city from which they operate. They retain corrupt 
criminal attorneys and maintain a large sinking fund for the 
defense of any of their members who may get into trouble. If 
one of the organization is arrested in any city on the North 
American continent, the best criminal attorneys in the city 
appear, as if by magic, to defend them. This policy, together 
with their powerful political connections, often makes extra- 
dition impossible. 

Despite this challenge, up to the present time only a small 
percentage of banks have taken advantage of the protection 
afforded by the alarm installation. The number is so small, in- 
deed, that it makes but little impression on the bank-robbery 
problem, with the result that insurance premiums against 
robbery attack in many places have reached extravagant 
levels. Bank managements are beginning to realize, however, 
that it is just as necessary to seek the services of a protective- 
equipment engineer as it is to consult an architect, record- 
system expert, or the agent of any other specialized service in 
connection with bank operation. 

Next to banks, jewelry stores present the greatest hazard 
so far as robbery and burglary are concerned. When the Jew- 
elers' Security Alliance was organized fifty years ago, the 
only method used by criminals in stealing jewelry was safe 
burglary. For about twenty-five years the Alliance limited its 
service to the combatting of that crime, and it almost suc- 
ceeded in driving safe burglars out of business so far as jew- 
elry stores were concerned. 

294 Police Communication Systems 

The criminals who formerly robbed safes, however, devel- 
oped other plans for attacking jewelers, and the crimes of 
window-smashing, sneak theft, holdup, and burglary, with- 
out attack upon the safe, began to be so numerous that the 
jewelers were obliged to take note of them in their plans of 
protection. The larger part of the work of this Alliance at 
the present time is concerned with the crimes of holdups and 
sneak theft. 

The accompanying table (p. 295) throws considerable light 
upon the crime problem from the jewelers' viewpoint and in- 
dicates the opportunities that exist in this field of engineering 

To the losses sustained by banks and jewelry stores must 
be added the enormous total of money and property obtained 
through the burglary and holdup of mercantile establish- 
ments in general. Information travels rapidly in the under- 
world and attacks are generally made where safeguards are 
known to be inadequate. Since the most expert attacks are 
directed against the greatest hazards, banking institutions, 
jewelry establishments, pay offices, and other places where 
large quantities of valuables are kept, should be equipped 
with the best and most complete forms of protection avail- 
able. The average criminal possesses too keen a sense of prison 
humor to risk detection and arrest by attacking premises 
which are known to be protected. If, in ignorance of the true 
situation, he makes such an attack, the rapid arrival of an 
armed patrol force soon brings him to an inglorious end. 

Besides theft, there are two other hazards against which the 
alarm system may provide a full measure of protection. In 
both fire and riot, money or valuables may be subject to de- 
struction or confiscation ; in such contingencies, the alarm sys- 
tem is in a preferred position to summon assistance in the 
shortest possible time. 

The advent of radio communication in modern patrol serv- 
ice has added to the potential value of the alarm system and 
will prove very helpful in the centralization of alarm-com- 
munication facilities at police headquarters. Where, as with 

Burglar- and Holdup-alarm Systems 



C^l CC l>- 


C^ iO O5 

S g 



296 Police Communication Systems 

the alarm circuit, the request for assistance is synchronized 
with the attack, operating-time intervals undergo a drastic 
reduction, and, when supplemented by radio broadcast, it 
becomes possible to officers to be at the scene of the crime in 
ample time to take the most effective action. That the future 
design and installation of alarm systems may be largely in- 
fluenced by these considerations is evidenced by a number of 
developments in this field which point toward a more complete 
utilization of the possibilities offered by radio communica- 
tion. For example, police experts and radio engineers have 
been giving attention to the development of automatic radio- 
alarm systems which shall be most direct in their operating 
sequence. In one such system, the contact or exciting device 
sets in operation a phonographic pickup apparatus at the 
bank, which is wired direct to the speech-input system of the 
police transmitter. The procedure at this point is similar to 
the use of electrical transcriptions by commercial broadcast- 
ing stations. The recorded wording on the transmitting record 
consists of a brief message announcing trouble at a given 
bank or other location, in code or otherwise. This message is 
repeated continuously until the alarm is manually shut down. 
Circuit arrangements in the system are such that, when the 
alarm goes into play, all other lines to the transmitter are 
automatically cleared, giving the alarm boadcast priority 
over all other police traffic. 

In this arrangement there is a decentralization of patrol 
control in which, for the moment, all detours are eliminated 
and communication is direct between the victim or premises 
attacked and the radio-equipped mobile patrol force. Al- 
though the alarm passes through the transmitting equipment 
at headquarters, the radio dispatcher is immediately elimi- 
nated from the scheme of operation and the effect is the same 
as if the victim or premises were equipped with an individual 
transmitter. Patrol cars equipped for two-way communica- 
tion on arrival at the scene of action may instantly convert 
the entire patrol force into one powerful unit to form a cor- 
don in the vicinity, blockade exits, or take whatever action is 

Burglar- and Holdup-alarm Systems 297 

required. Yet this is merely an introduction to the potentiali- 
ties of electrical protection, and but faint indication of the 
role to be played by alarm and communication systems in the 
police service of tomorrow. 



closely interlocking operations, each function dependent 
upon and contributory to the others, the whole coordinated 
into a systematized plan. The primary purpose of the system 
is reduction of delay, whether between the commission of a 
crime and the apprehension of the law-breaker or between the 
occurrence of the emergency and the required police action. 
Toward this end, proper provision should be made in the rules 
and regulations of the police department for the orderly and 
uniform use of all the available facilities that are essential to 
this purpose. The operation of the switchboard, use of the re- 
call and beat telephone systems, and all the other functions of 
the various communication units should be the subjects of 
concise orders from the Chief's office. Only by such definite 
and comprehensive instructions can the separated units be 
brought together in the necessary cooperation. Furthermore, 
since the communication system is an integral part of that 
larger organization, the police department, the men responsi- 
ble for its administration must take cognizance of the rela- 
tionships of the communication system to other branches of 
the department. Some of these relationships it will be well to 
consider in detail. 


In modern police administration, in England and America, 
there has gradually been accepted the far-reaching princi- 
ple : Decentralize wherever you can, centralize only when you 
must. In decentralization a large city is subdivided into police 
divisions, and these into police precincts ; the precincts are in 
turn divided ultimately into the fundamental unit of police 
operations, the police beat, to which a patrol officer is as- 
signed. Various considerations govern the determination of 
the size of these subdivisions. No division or precinct should 


Coordination of the System 299 

be so large that the commanding officer will find it difficult to 
maintain discipline and morale and 'fix responsibility among 
his police officers. He should have full knowledge of the crim- 
inals and potential offenders living in the area and should 
also establish friendly relations with the respectable and law- 
abiding members of the community. No fixed rule can be laid 
down, but a population of 50,000 is usually considered the 
maximum for the station commander who would give the po- 
lice protection and service that is needed. 1 

Decentralization would be impossible without some means 
of communication between a station and its force distributed 
on the beats. Yet centralization of all the police strength at a 
central headquarters would obviously be hazardous and im- 
practicable. The communication system acts here as a means 
of control that makes possible the distribution of police 
strength throughout an area. Two divergent opinions appear 
at this point. There are those who think that the communica- 
tion system should be completely decentralized, with a cer- 
tain measure of control over their respective areas delegated 
to the substation commanding officers; and there are those 
who think that all control should be centralized and all lines 
of communication converge at central headquarters. 


In the centralized police-communication system there is a 
complete concentration of all authority, all control, and all 
functions in one central administration, the Central Commu- 
nication Bureau, which is usually at central headquarters. 
This concentration implies a complete unification of the com- 
munication system as opposed to a comparatively loose assem- 
blage of quasi-independent parts. The control of all lines of 
communication visible and audible signal recall systems, 
beat telephone systems, telephone, teletype, radio, and incom- 
ing reports and complaints are completely centralized at 
police headquarters. Communication out of precinct stations 

1 See Report of the National Commission on Law Observance and En- 
forcement (1931). 

300 Police Communication Systems 

is limited to telephone and teletype contact with headquar- 
ters, and the control of beat patrol forces is centralized at the 
one control point. 

The ultimate test of a communication system is the emer- 
gency, and the measure of its efficiency is the speed with which 
police strength may be concentrated in a given quarter. In 
emergencies, the centralized or highly unified communication 
network relays the alarm to the points of control with no loss 
of time. Lines of communication are direct. Orders and in- 
formation may be transmited to every corner of the city with 
dispatch, and mobilization of the patrol strength becomes a 
comparatively simple matter. The instructions are given in- 
telligently, the officer having in mind the proximity of par- 
ticular units of the patrol force to the place of action and to 
the strategic points to be covered, and possessing also a good 
general knowledge of the man power and equipment avail- 
able and its disposition throughout the entire area. Further- 
more, because of the wide perspective of operation, the officer 
in the centralized bureau can supervise the movements of this 
scattered force, in whole or in part, to the best advantage. 

Centralization of all facilities in one office is economical be- 
cause it makes unnecessary much of the duplication of person- 
nel, labor, equipment, and appliances. The peak traffic loads 
of the districts counterbalance one another in a central office, 
bringing about an automatic adjustment of communication 
traffic and thus doing away with excess personnel. Officers 
can easily be shifted to points where there is a pressure of 
work, supervision and inspection can be more easily done and 
at less cost, and uniformity in technique and operation are 
more easily secured. 

Centralization almost invariably develops specialization, 
for which there is great need in modern communication tech- 
nique. In the small, decentralized substation bureau, the offi- 
cers must perform all the communication functions, and they 
have little opportunity for specialization; a large force of 
men almost instinctively breaks up into specialized groups. 
In thus specializing, however, these men have the background 

Coordination of the System 301 

of the wider and more extensive experience obtainable in a 
large and comprehensive communication bureau. They come 
to appreciate the general police communication plan in terms 
of a city-wide crime-fighting organization. Their entire at- 
tention is directed toward this one purpose of conquering 
crime. They have the facilities wherewith to make practical 
tests of every new improvement as it appears, and they are 
constantly studying to make their own contributions to the 
solution of the problem of crime. These are the dividends of 


Every police force maintains some sort of record of the of- 
fenses that come to its attention, of the action taken, and of 
the persons apprehended and their disposition, together with 
a wide variety of other facts that have to do with depart- 
mental duties and functions. These records may be divided 
into two general categories : first, those that are routine, for 
example, a patrolman's report on the condition of a broken 
sewer-cover with a notation of the action taken ; and second, 
and far more important, those reports pertaining to crime 
and criminals and other subjects which have a definite bear- 
ing upon police administrative policy. Current information, 
for example, concerning the number, place of occurrence, 
type, and time of known offenses is correlated with distribu- 
tion of the patrol force, plain-clothes investigators, and crime- 
prevention officers according to police district, post, month, 
day, and hour. In these reports there are also accumulated 
descriptions of persons and property, and accurate statistics 
on the amount of crime within respective areas indispens- 
able data in the detection, apprehension, and identification 
of offenders. These various data concerning crime will often 
be suggestive of studies that may lead to better handling of 
situations and to a reduction of crime in the areas studied. 
Honestly and accurately recorded from day to day, and sum- 
marized in monthly and yearly reports, they are invaluable 
as a basis for departmental reorganization, administrative 
strategy, and long-range crime prevention. 

302 Police Communication Systems 

So far as centralization or decentralization of the police 
record division is concerned, the advantages lie with centrali- 
zation. That all information should be concentrated in one 
place and thus be easily, quickly, and completely available is 
indeed almost imperative in modern police administration. 
The centralized record system will be found in many modern 
police departments. There the necessarily separate parts of a 
record can be coordinated, and the responsibility for the work 
be placed upon a single subordinate executive. 

The correlation of function and close cooperation that is es- 
sential between all parts of the modern police department is 
particularly needed between the communication bureau and 
the record division. By far the greater part of the complaints, 
reports, and information received by the police department 
comes over the lines of communication. A comparatively small 
percentage of these may be delivered personally at the com- 
plaint desk, but this desk is essentially a unit in the communi- 
cation system. The communication bureau is thus the first, 
although a temporary, custodian of information in any form 
that it may take, and as such is directly responsible to the 
record division for its accuracy, safekeeping, and certainty 
of transfer to the commanding officer of that division. Theo- 
retically, and it so works out in practice, the record division 
delegates this authority for temporary custody of records to 
the communication bureau. Advocates of the centralized com- 
munication system therefore believe and rightly that the 
record division should have a supervising control over com- 
munication. They also point out that, in the centralization of 
communication facilities, if one single control point were lo- 
cated in the functional area of record operations, the record 
division would immediately secure such control. 

The reception of reports and complaints involves the as- 
signment of officers for their investigation and disposition. 
In modern police administration, these assignments are sim- 
ultaneous with the reception of the report and they are al- 
most invariably transmitted over communication lines to the 
officers whose beats they concern. Decidedly, the record divi- 

Coordination of the System 303 

sion is interested in these assignments. It is concerned not 
only with the certainty of receiving an accurate copy of the 
original report, but also with the prompt filing of reports by 
the investigating officer and a final disposition of all the rec- 
ords in a case as soon as possible. 

In self-defense, if for no other reason, the division must 
possess a supervising control over all agencies in the organi- 
zation that have to do with record procedure. It is therefore 
a logical opinion that communication facilities and activities 
should be centralized, with the focal point of control under 
the watchful eye of the record division. 

A centralized communication system makes possible the 
collection of uniform and accurate records ; it also eliminates 
the possibility of collusion between substation commanding 
officers and the men out on patrol. If the report or complaint 
must come through the central office for assignment of action 
thereon, it is quite likely that the record will be as nearly ac- 
curate as it is possible for records to be. 

A decentralized system of communication, on the contrary, 
may easily result in the corruption of a police record system 
and reduce, if not destroy, its efficiency. In an impartial sur- 
vey of the Chicago Police Department in 1931, by the Citi- 
zens' Police Committee, the separation of the communication 
system from the record division was definitely condemned, 
and comment was made as follows : 

Available means of communication and records must of necessity be 
closely articulated. A centralized system of crime records requires a cen- 
tralized system of communications in order that citizens' complaints 
and the reports of police officers may be promptly placed under official 
control and assignments for investigations judiciously effected. 

The Illinois Bell Telephone Company provides a means of communi- 
cation from the general public through both the listed subscribers' num- 
bers and the general police emergency type of communication. Thus, 
a citizen's emergency call might be connected with any of the several 
police districts in the telephone exchange area from which the call origi- 
nated. This condition sometimes caused considerable delay in relaying 
the call to the proper district and prevented prompt action by the de- 
partment in meeting an emergency. 

Decentralized handling of criminal complaints also rendered accurate 

304 Police Communication Systems 

crime accountings extremely difficult. Both have been remedied by the 
installation of a central complaint room switchboard, where city-wide 
calls for police assistance are now directly connected and promptly dis- 
tributed. 2 

In a projected plan of departmental reorganization, incor- 
porated as a part of this survey, these two administrative 
units were therefore brought together under a single com- 
mand. Accordingly, it was recommended that the teletype 
transmitters, which had been at some distance from the rec- 
ord division, should be installed in a room adjoining the cen- 
tral complaint room, thus greatly expediting and improving 
the service. All other means of communication employed by 
the police were to be centralized, making possible a central 
clearinghouse for all citizens' complaints, which in turn de- 
termines the method to be used in communicating them to the 
various police units directly concerned. 

The centralized communication system has certain prac- 
tical limitations, however, which become evident as the de- 
partment grows in size and the volume of business increases. 
Too great a degree of centralization may produce a clumsy, 
unmanageable machine, since the larger the force, the greater 
the opportunity for delay. The disadvantages of a completely 
centralized police communication system are in large part 
the advantages of decentralization. 


In a decentralized organization, the various units are per- 
mitted to operate with as little interference from the central 
authority as is compatible with good service : administrative 
powers and functions are transformed from a higher to a 
lower authority. In a decentralized police communication sys- 
tem, reports and complaints are received at substations and 
are assigned from that point to beat officers in the individual 
area controlled by the substation. It must naturally follow 
that to the individual station is delegated the control of com- 
munication equipment used between the station and the 

- Citizens' Police Committee, Survey of the Chicago Police Depart- 
ment (1931). 

Coordination of the System 305 

beats, in order to expedite the operation of the decentralized 
patrol force. 

Decentralization, of course, has its limits : complete decen- 
tralization would simply be a collapse of the whole police 
organization. Decentralization implies, rather, that any de- 
cision should be made at the lowest point in the organization 
at which the person deciding possesses all the facts neces- 
sary for a sound decision. In other words, decentralization 
is not properly a matter of delegation but of function ; the 
man who possesses the facts should be the man to decide. If we 
begin with a rigid headquarters control and an organization 
strongly centralized, it would, despite the form of control, 
work toward decentralization through the gradual adoption 
of local areas of activity. 

Decentralization in line organization, as has been indi- 
cated, is a generally accepted principle in police service. To 
centralize highly the communication system is to negative to 
a great degree the advantages obtained through modern line 
decentralization. Such decentralization is attainable only 
through the facilities of communication, and if the adminis- 
trative pattern of the communication system is the converse 
of the patrol plan, it will be realized at once that two widely 
divergent principles of organization are in serious conflict. 
Such a paradoxical arrangement may even undermine a de- 
partment's control of its patrol force. 

Excessive centralization of decision wastes the resources of 
the organization. In all departments there is an abundance of 
ability to handle routine matters. By localizing the responsi- 
bility for local decisions, the interest and initiative of sub- 
ordinate commanding officers and the men they control are 
increased. The commanding officer is in direct control of the 
men in his area and their responsibility to him is clearly de- 
nned. This localization of control and responsibility deepens 
the interest and loyalty of the men, with the result that the 
neighborhood benefits in the quality of its police protection. 

Police service has undergone a tremendous change in the 
last two decades. With the coming of the automobile, rapid 

306 Police Communication Systems 

means of communication, and the expanding application of 
the social sciences, the policeman is no longer merely a puni- 
tive agent of the government ; in the greater project of crime 
prevention he has responsibilities for the social welfare far 
beyond those of any other person in the community. He is 
likely to be the only representative of the government that 
the newcomer in town knows. His desire to prevent crime 
may lead him to activities seemingly remote from his proper 
sphere. For example, one officer fostered the construction of 
playgrounds in his district, organized competitive sports, and 
found other means of providing good outlets for the leisure- 
time energies and activities of youngsters. The interest and 
initiative that led to this constructive activity are a result of 
the decentralized plan in which responsibility for the care 
of an individual administrative area is placed upon one com- 
manding officer, who in turn shares this responsibility among 
the men on the beat. Where this responsibility is taken from 
the commanding officer, as it is in a highly centralized or- 
ganization, interest and morale decline, since there is little 
incentive toward those extra activities which distinguish 
modern police service from the service of a decade ago. 

Further, in the decentralized arrangement, precinct offi- 
cers, being conversant with the characteristics of the area un- 
der their jurisdiction, may control the patrol force to better 
advantage than is done in a centralized system in which all 
control and orders emanate from a central headquarters. 
Many crimes are local, requiring a special and detailed knowl- 
edge of neighborhoods and their people. Certain classes of 
criminals tend to operate in restricted localities rather than 
over an entire city. The communication system is intimately 
interwoven with the local aspect of the crime problem and 
the plan for movement of the patrol force. 

The precinct commanding officer gains an intimate knowl- 
edge of the people who reside in his area. He is thus in a posi- 
tion to become thoroughly acquainted with the crime, vice, 
and traffic conditions within the district assigned to him for 
protection. Moreover, responsibility can be fixed only where 

Coordination of the System 307 

the territory or police problem is decentralized to a point 
where a single subordinate commanding officer can grasp the 
situation. Because of the certainty and intelligence connected 
with this form of control, discipline is encouraged, and the 
police campaign against crime and corruption within a given 
district is strengthened. 


How about the record administration under a decentralized 
system? The answer to this question is difficult, and yet it 
would seem fundamental to success that reports should be 
received in the first instance by the station which is expected 
to give attention to them. Since the report is received in its 
original form, the opportunity for error in transmission is re- 
duced, and no time is lost in dispatching assistance. 

It is true that the position and functions of the record divi- 
sion must be correlated with other branches of police activ- 
ity, particularly communication. But if, in establishing this 
correlation through a centralized communication system, we 
paralyze the efficiency of the patrol force, the plan must be 
abandoned. In the last analysis, the record division is de- 
pendent upon the patrol force for the material without which 
it could not function. Furthermore, the physical delivery of 
police protection is a patrol responsibility and this is the 
ultimate objective of the entire department. 

The record division is one of the tools or instruments em- 
ployed, but it is the patrol force that acts. According to ad- 
vocates of the decentralized plan, the requirements of patrol 
service are primary, and all other considerations are second- 
ary. The integrity and correctness of the reports can be tested 
from time to time by a system of inspection, as all other police 
activities are, and if any falsification of records is found, the 
offender may be dismissed or demoted. No mechanical scheme, 
whether centralized or decentralized, can ever ensure abso- 
lutely correct records ; that depends upon the personnel, and 
no administrative mechanism can overcome a weakness in 

308 Police Communication Systems 

In some cities, notably Los Angeles, record routine has 
been adapted to the decentralized plan in such manner as to 
achieve an effective control over the recording of police ac- 
tion in response to a complaint. When a complaint is received 
by the precinct station, for example, assistance is immedi- 
ately dispatched, either through the station or through the 
communication division. At the same time, the record divi- 
sion at Central Headquarters is asked to give the precinct 
station a number to apply to the complaint. At this time, also, 
headquarters is told of the complaint. The allotted number 
automatically becomes a charge against the precinct station 
until the record division is in possession of complete infor- 
mation and records on the case, as well as a report of its 
final disposition. Obviously, this arrangement affords the 
record division a very satisfactory supervision over record 

The territorial distribution of communication facilities is 
unavoidable. The physical distribution of equipment in large 
cities is so immense that centralized control is impracticable. 
The volume of transactions may become too great for one bu- 
reau to handle efficiently. Decentralization both relieves the 
central authority and utilizes the greater familiarity of the 
subordinate officers with local conditions, to the more effec- 
tive exercise of the agencies of control. Adequate safeguards 
must always be present, however, to counterbalance the re- 
sulting hazards of comparative isolation. Excessive decen- 
tralization means a scattering of strength, and sometimes a 
jealous lack of cooperation with consequent dissipation of de- 
partmental effectiveness. Faulty control may easily permit 
of collusion between precinct commanders and beat officers, 
resulting in suppression or falsifying of records and their 
uselessness except as evidence against the officers involved. 


In actual practice, organization experts have come to agree 
that both centralization and decentralization have their ad- 
vantages and their defects, and that neither complete ceil- 

Coordination of the System 309 

t.ralization nor complete decentralization is desirable. Each 
system must borrow from the other until an organizational 
equilibrium is established, the proportions of the combina- 
tion depending upon the purposes of the organization and the 
conditions under which it must carry out those purposes. 

In Berkeley, Calif., for example, population, 3 area, and 
other factors have not required a territorial decentralization 
into police precincts. There is one police station ; all lines of 
control radiate from that point, and so do the lines of com- 
munication. Normally, there is no necessity for any interme- 
diary form of control between headquarters and the beat. In 
extreme emergencies, patrol officers in cars equipped for two- 
way radio communication that happen to be at the scene of 
action may relieve headquarters of the control function for 
the duration of the emergency. 4 This novel and effective form 
of decentralization is a collateral development of two-way 
radio communication and is now being adopted by many po- 
lice departments. Fundamentally, however, the communica- 
tion system in Berkeley is spread out upon a centralized 

The complaint desk, joint auxiliary of the communication 
and the record systems, is centrally placed at headquarters, 
where it is easily accessible to the public, to members of the 
record division, and to other staff members of the depart- 
ment. The telephone exchange board is placed opposite the 
complaint desk and in the same room. All incoming calls of 
whatever origin or kind are received at this exchange a com- 
plete centralization in this one respect. The exchange board 
accommodates direct lines to the offices of all departmental 
staff members. Intercommunication lines similarly connect 
the exchange board by direct wire with other municipal of- 
fices, including the fire department. Direct telephone facili- 
ties are also maintained between this exchange and the central 
offices of near-by police departments. 

Approximately ninety police-box telephones are distrib- 

3 Population, 86,000 ; area, approximately 10 square miles. 

4 See page 318. 

310 Police Communication Systems 

uted at strategic points over police beats in all sections of the 
city, all of which feed directly into the telephone exchange 
board. Through the distribution of red-light signals through- 
out the city, it is possible to recall any individual officer, any 
group of officers, or all officers simultaneously. Geographical 
selection is further provided by means of signals that may 
be flashed in a particular section or beat. The recall control 
mechanism is in the same room with the exchange board and 
is adjacent thereto, so as to be conveniently available for 
rapid operation by the exchange-board operator. 

The radio microphone is directly in front of the telephone 
operator, with remote-control equipment of the transmitter 
within easy reach. Furthermore, the lines of all the bank and 
burglar alarms that are installed in Berkeley are routed di- 
rectly to the exchange board. Sending and receiving teletype 
machines, which connect the communication bureau with out- 
side departments and with the state-wide and Pacific Coast 
networks, are installed in the same room. On top of a twenty- 
one-story office building in the city is a powerful siren which 
may be operated by remote control a button conveniently 
near to the operator. This signal is designed for city-wide 
alarms, such as disaster, catastrophe, or other grave situa- 

Here is presented a compact laboratory of communication 
facilities and an excellent example of the centralized system. 
All lines of communication focus at one point, thus centraliz- 
ing the control of a decentralized patrol force. Mobilization 
of the patrol force is rapid in emergencies, and the criminal 
finds that his operations in the city of Berkeley are attended 
with more than ordinary hazards. 

The centralized communication system is a natural instal- 
lation in the comparatively small city in which all lines of 
control may be concentrated at one point. It is where popula- 
tion, area, and other factors force a territorial decentraliza- 
tion of a city into administrative areas and the establishment 
of precinct stations that communication planning becomes 
a real problem. The necessity for an intermediary form of 

Coordination of the System 311 

control the precinct station between headquarters and the 
beat increases the complexity of the situation. 

Let us enlarge our consideration of the Berkeley communi- 
cation system, and assume that this city is only a suburb or 
precinct in a greater metropolitan area. This is a not unlikely 
situation at some future time, since Berkeley is one of twenty 
or more closely adjacent communities lying along the shores 
of San Francisco Bay. Separated mostly by imaginary and 
meaningless political boundary lines, the cities of San Fran- 
cisco, South San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, 
Hayward, San Leandro, Emeryville, Albany, Piedmont, El 
Cerrito, Richmond, and others, practically constitute one 
great metropolitan area. The densely populated residential 
sections of one community merge into those of an adjacent 
city so completely that the unsuspecting motorist finds him- 
self violating a half-dozen traffic codes in as many different 
cities within a short interval of fifteen or twenty minutes. The 
combined population and area of this entire district would 
of course dictate a thoroughgoing plan of territorial decen- 
tralization. Assuming, for purposes of discussion, that San 
Francisco was chosen as central headquarters, what plan of 
communication would serve effectively such a gigantic organ- 
ization ? Obviously, a coalition of the centralized and decen- 
tralized forms of control must be devised. 

At central headquarters would be the record division cov- 
ering the entire area. Development of the necessary record 
forms, technique, and procedure would be a comparatively 
simple task. Appropriate inspection and investigation of per- 
sonnel would disclose any irregularities in records and sug- 
gest the means for their elimination. By such administrative 
expedients it would be possible to give the record division the 
assurance, to which it is entitled, that the established stand- 
ard of record procedure is being maintained. Through con- 
solidated daily sheets, monthly, annual, and special reports 
submitted by the commanding officers of the various admin- 
istrative areas, the central headquarters would be kept con- 
stantly informed concerning the state of affairs in these 

312 Police Communication Systems 

districts. From the accumulated information on file at head- 
quarters, the statistical staff might make studies and prepare 
statistical analyses showing the problems of crime that were 
encountered and the effectiveness of the police in solving 
them. Thus, through the aid of a highly centralized record 
division, administrators would be enabled intelligently to 
formulate policies for the efficient administration of the met- 
ropolitan department. 

With respect to the communication system, conditions 
would be entirely different from the highly centralized sit- 
uation described for Berkeley as an independent municipal- 
ity. There would be a huge metropolitan police area in which 
the police line organization was decentralized into twenty or 
more police divisions, each in turn decentralized into pre- 
cincts, and these again, into police beats. A commanding offi- 
cer would be in charge of each precinct, and his responsibility 
for policing his precinct would be analogous to that of the 
chief of police of an ordinary community. 

Control in such an organization must be a decentralized 
function, but the unity of the organization remains ; and the 
phenomenon which preserves the organization intact is the 
reverse flow of responsibility over these same lines of control. 
According to the theorem of communication, namely, that 
the lines of communication must always parallel those of ad- 
ministrative control, wherever control is decentralized, at 
that point the lines of communication must also be decentral- 
ized, and wherever a central point of control is set up, there 
also should be set up a central control of communication. 

In order to accommodate the reverse flow of responsibility, 
all avenues of control must converge gradually to the central 
point where is placed the authority that, by means of decen- 
tralization, assigns to the organizational units their respec- 
tive functions. There must be this central point of control, 
which is of course the central headquarters, remote though it 
may be from local areas of activity. And finally, in order to 
complete the application of the theorem of communication, a 
central communication bureau must be set up at the central 

Coordination of the System 313 

division headquarters. At the central communication bureau 
are all the auxiliaries of communication, including the cen- 
tral complaint desk, telephone exchange, office intercommu- 
nication system, teletype sending and receiving machines, ra- 
dio remote-control equipment, central division beat telephone 
network and recall system, alarm system, and disaster signal. 
Placed near enough to the record division to permit of ade- 
quate supervision are the central telephone exchange board 
and complaint desk, the agencies for receiving reports, com- 
plaints, and information which demand police attention. Suf- 
ficient data are obtained by the desk officer and operator to 
fill out the original report form, and the information is im- 
mediately given a serial number and routed to the record di- 
vision. The central complaint room has an absolute control 
over the assignment of complaint serial numbers, and pre- 
cinct stations are required to call either the record division or 
the desk officer to get a serial number for each report or com- 
plaint that may be received directly at such stations. 


The public instinctively considers central headquarters as 
the logical point of call when sending in an emergency or rou- 
tine request for police assistance. In Chicago and in many 
other large cities, the report of a barking dog and the hurried 
notification of a holdup or murder are alike received at the 
central complaint room in general police headquarters, re- 
gardless of the geographical origin of such reports in the met- 
ropolitan area. The police foster this attitude of the public. 
In some large cities, indeed, the police have at various times 
conducted educational programs in an endeavor to make the 
public more conscious of the centralization at headquarters. 
The fact is emphasized that there is only one point at which 
calls for police assistance are received, and only a single po- 
lice telephone number is given to the general public. 

Advocates of decentralization point out that, in such cen- 
tralization, time is lost in transferring the information to the 
point where action is needed. They direct attention to the 

314 Police Communication Systems 

fact that a more definite establishment of precinct stations as 
police centers and the cultivation of neighborhood confidence 
in their personnel and equipment would do much to shift 
a large part of police business to precinct stations. It is at 
this point in the metropolitan communication scheme that the 
two forms of control can be utilized as alternative methods of 

In respect to the receipt of the original request for police 
assistance, the centralized arrangement in which all calls ar- 
rive at the central complaint room more nearly meets modern 
requirements. Confusion on the part of the public is elimi- 
nated, since there can be but one emergency police telephone 
number. With adequate personnel in the central complaint 
room and properly organized operating procedure, a large 
volume of traffic may be handled with a minimum of delay, 
and, through direct telephone and teletype facilities, traffic 
may be dispatched to individual precinct stations with little 
if any loss of time. 

Moreover, the radio communication system, by virtue of its 
function in the emergency mobilization of patrol strength, is 
necessarily a highly centralized affair. Even the kind of equip- 
ment used in radio communication suggests the installation 
of a central transmitter. Indeed, until recently, engineering 
difficulties would have been encountered if an attempt had 
been made to install broadcast equipment at each precinct 
station. There were also to be considered frequency-channel 
limitations and cost of equipment, as well as other factors. 
Such a decentralized arrangement seems really unnecessary, 
as modern police transmitters are capable of covering large 
metropolitan areas from one centrally located point. Where 
plurality of transmitters was employed in order to obtain ef- 
fective coverage, as in the Chicago installation, the control 
remained centralized, as all alarms were broadcast through 
microphones at the central complaint room. 

The introduction of high-frequency radio systems into po- 
lice service has in large part eliminated these various objec- 
tions. The cost of this specialized equipment is comparatively 

Coordination of the System 315 

low and the problems connected with limitations of frequency 
channels and with interference have been circumvented by 
new methods of transmission. The use of this new equipment 
has been extended to mobile stations that have been installed 
in police cars as a means of decentralizing control of patrol 
cars for the duration of an emergency. Even during such 
operations, it is to be noted, headquarters maintains a con- 
stant check on all mobile broadcasts, so that control is contin- 
uously maintained. If precinct stations were thus specially 
equipped, a similar check against their broadcast operations 
would be a simple matter. 

When police radio service was begun, questions arose re- 
specting the record system and control over investigations. 
In some police departments there was a strong tendency to 
make the radio a controlling factor in police administration. 
In Chicago, for example, it was originally planned to install a 
central switchboard at police headquarters for that sole pur- 
pose, since the success of crime broadcasting by radio de- 
pended upon an expeditious relay of citizens' complaints. 

The immediate effect of this plan, had it been put into exe- 
cution, would have been to create a new and independent 
agency within the police department, which would have 
controlled completely the greater part of the criminal com- 
plaints. But since the police radio system was used only for 
broadcasting those major crimes which require emergency ac- 
tion, by far the greater number of citizens' complaints, many 
of which were of a grave character, would have been put to 
one side and there would have been no control whatever over 
their investigation. As now installed and operated, the new 
central switchboard is an integral part of the central com- 
plaint room, and its operator exercises an important influ- 
ence in the expeditious handling of all complaints, and in the 
administrative control over their investigation. 

Thus, in the metropolitan system of police communication, 
calls for police assistance and the broadcast of emergency re- 
ports, as well as the routine dispatching of ordinary traffic 
to precinct stations, are not only centralized but are also satis- 

316 Police Communication Systems 

factorily under the supervisory direction of the record divi- 
sion. Up to the present time it has been the practice to restrict 
radio broadcast to reports of what are classified as emer- 
gencies holdups, fights, murders, assaults, and other serious 

The use of radio service, however, is expanding and in a 
number of police departments neighborhood quarrels, bark- 
ing dogs, ordinance violations, disturbances of the peace, and 
other happenings formerly classified as minor complaints are 
receiving the same service that is accorded the stickup and 
the burglar. With the inevitable development of this wider 
use, there will come a more urgent need for centralization of 
this facility under the supervision of the record division. 

The police department's teletype network is again a cen- 
tralized unit with lines radiating out from headquarters to 
all precinct stations. Two conditions might easily convert it 
into a decentralized system. In the large metropolitan area 
that we have contemplated, it might be necessary to set up 
divisional stations, each controlling a number of precinct 
stations. To the present central division headquarters in the 
city of Oakland, Calif., under such an arrangement, would be 
delegated the control of the present precinct organization in 
that city. This would require a teletype network between cen- 
tral division headquarters and divisional stations a form of 
decentralized control. 

Several attempts have been made to determine the feasibil- 
ity of supplementing beat telephone equipment by teletype 
receiving machines. Such equipment distributed on beats 
would be under the direct control of the precinct station and 
would represent a true decentralization of this facility. 

The metropolitan system, as so far described, is a highly 
centralized machine, with the incoming calls for police as- 
sistance, teletype, and radio under the absolute control of the 
central complaint room. It is now necessary to consider those 
communication facilities which become decentralized at ex- 
actly the same point as the organization itself, namely, the 
precinct station. These facilities include, principally, the beat 

Coordination of the System 317 

telephone and the recall systems. The services rendered are 
intimately interwoven with the police administration of the 
precinct, and under present conditions it would be a mistake 
to centralize them at general headquarters. 

The commanding officer of the precinct is held responsible 
for the policing of the precinct area a responsibility which, 
by the very nature of organization, invests him with the con- 
trol of the force in that territory. By the same token he must 
be provided with a ready means of communication between 
the station and the dispersed members of the patrol force un- 
der his command. This means of communication he finds in 
the recall system, which, operated under his direction, gives 
him control of the precinct force through his ability to signal 
to any individual officer, any group of officers, or to all offi- 
cers in the district simultaneously. Prompt action by the of- 
ficer on the beat is thus assured not only on local complaints, 
but also on reports transferred to the precinct station from 
the central complaint room. 

Through the beat telephone network, both the precinct com- 
manding officer and the members of the patrol force may, if 
necessary, communicate with each other without delay. Regu- 
lar reporting-in schedules are established, usually at one-hour 
intervals, and the calls of the various officers are staggered, 
so that the commanding officer has an almost continuous con- 
tact with the available patrol force. The beat telephone also 
supplements the signaling system, and thus makes possible 
rapid communication with the station when the recall system 
is in use. 

The precinct complaint desk is unavoidably, in some meas- 
ure at least, a decentralized unit, since many reports and com- 
plaints are made direct to precinct stations. These reports 
concern not only the precinct, but also matters of immediate 
interest to other precincts or to the entire police department, 
as well as information which may concern one or more outside 
departments. The appropriate police action is assigned for 
each report or complaint, and is accounted for to the record 
division at central headquarters. Adequate safeguards assure 

318 Police Communication Systems 

the uninterrupted flow of accurate and complete records to 
the record division. 

In some cities burglar- and holdup-alarm system lines are 
routed to precinct stations, where they are connected to the 
police communication system. However, since radio commu- 
nication with mobile patrol units provides a most rapid mo- 
bilization of patrol strength and makes possible its immediate 
concentration in any quarter, it is logical that all alarm lines 
should terminate in the central complaint room, with its 
facilities for the dispatching of emergency alarms. 

The introduction of two-way radio communication has been 
accompanied by an entirely new development in the decen- 
tralization of patrol communication. Upon its arrival at the 
scene of an emergency, a patrol car equipped for two-way 
communication may take charge of the situation for the dur- 
ation of the emergency, and direct other radio-equipped pa- 
trol cars in the vicinity. Exits from the locality of the crime 
location may be cut off, roads blockaded, a cordon formed, and 
descriptions and other information pertinent to the crime 
broadcast direct from the patrol car that is at the scene of 

This recent development in patrol service is destined to 
become an important factor in the general scheme of police 
decentralization. It is in accord with the fundamental assump- 
tion that any decision should be made at the lowest point in 
the organization at which are available all the facts necessary 
for a sound decision. Two-way radio communication thus in- 
troduces a refinement in decentralization in which headquar- 
ters temporarily relinquishes control of a part or all of the 
police force and an individual patrol car becomes the direct- 
ing agency. In an emergency, indeed, the decentralized unit 
may request the help of headquarters in relaying assistance 
to outside departments. 

From the foregoing, it will be seen that the communication 
system of a metropolitan police department is a combination 
of the centralized and decentralized plans of organization. 
The advantages claimed for each plan are met, in large part, 

Coordination of the System 319 

in the combination of modifications of both. If developments 
of the past twenty years are any guide for the future, the 
present trend of police service is toward greater decentraliza- 
tion, with the individual patrolman and his radio-equipped 
patrol car acquiring an increased significance as the ultimate 
unit of police protection. 


Prerequisite to the proper coordination of communication 
facilities is the maintenance of complete and dependable rec- 
ords of the activities of this service. Communication records 
are primarily of two kinds: (1) the crime-record form em- 
bodying the information set down on the "original complaint 
form" and (2) the record form that concerns the operation 
and maintenance of the communication system. 

Fundamentally, as we have seen, the record division and 
the communication system are inseparable in their actual 
operation. The communication system is therefore vitally 
interested in the procedure followed in setting down the 
original information obtained at the time that the call for 
police assistance is received. This procedure is as follows : At 
the moment that a report arrives in the central complaint 
room, the operator gets from the complainant sufficient infor- 
mation to start the investigation and officers are dispatched 
on the assignment. At this point record procedure begins. It 
is a fundamental rule in modern police service that a perma- 
nent record shall be made of all matters coming to the atten- 
tion of the police which require investigation. It is therefore 
essential that a standard record form be used to accommodate 
the original information. The record designed for this pur- 
pose is known generally among police departments as the 
original complaint form, the shape, size, and arrangement of 
which are not material to this study. It might be pointed out, 
however, that the general lack of uniformity among police de- 
partments in this respect has been, at times, and with dispro- 
portionate seriousness, a definite handicap. 5 

5 See Appendix 9, p. 537, for forms used in communication records 
and procedures. 



POLICE DEPARTMENTS are usually so busy administering cur- 
rent business that they give little thought to the planning 
of police procedure for times of disaster or catastrophe, such 
as great earthquakes, fires, floods, or tornadoes, or for times 
of social disturbance, such as race riots, strikes, and political 
upheavals. Furthermore, they may function for years with- 
out ever being faced by the pressing problems which a great 
earthquake, fire, or flood brings ; and this tends to lull them 
into a false sense of security false because no community 
can be certain that it will not be the scene of the next disaster. 
And at just these times the police function has its greatest 
importance. Police departments have not yet learned the 
lesson which military men know well, namely, that effective 
work in times of stress and danger requires careful and de- 
tailed planning beforehand. Since the tasks facing a com- 
munity at a time of catastrophe fall into two main divisions, 
the best organized plans are decentralized into two main 
parts. Division A deals with the protection of persons and 
property, rescue work, and the preservation of peace and 
order. Government officials, including the staffs of the vari- 
ous city or county departments, are made responsible for this 
work, and in it the Army, National Guard, reserve officers, 
the American Legion, and other veteran organizations can be 
of the greatest aid. Division B, which deals with public relief 
and rehabilitation, is usually taken care of by the local chap- 
ter and national offices of the American Red Cross, w T ith the 
aid of other charitable and social service organizations. 1 

Cooperation and unified administration are secured 
through an executive committee known as the coordination 
committee or emergency council, consisting usually of the 

1 The San Francisco, Calif., Berkeley, Calif., and Pasadena, Calif., 
disaster plans follow this model. 

[ 320 ] 

Under Disaster Conditions 321 

mayor, city manager (if any), chairman of the local chapter 
of the American Red Cross, and sometimes of several other 
officials such as members of the legislative body and the heads 
of service clubs and other organizations that are participating 
in the disaster work. Some disaster plans may not distinguish 
so clearly two separate divisions, but the two kinds of work 
to be done are provided for in substantially the same manner. 2 

In all disaster plans the police department has the general 
police duties of maintaining order, protecting life and prop- 
erty, directing traffic, and caring for the lost and found. The 
police are also expected to aid other officials, make prelimi- 
nary surveys of the extent of the disaster, and cooperate with 
the Army and the National Guard if these agencies are called 
upon. All these regular police duties assume unusual and 
difficult proportions. Traffic control especially becomes diffi- 
cult, because of the large number of people who seek to escape 
from the ruined area and the large numbers who seek to enter 
it, either from anxiety for the welfare of friends and relatives 
or out of mere idle curiosity. 

The protection of property from looting, and especially the 
guarding of banks and other places where funds and valua- 
bles are kept, are duties which the police are .immediately 
called upon to assume. To mobilize the men on the force, to 
get data on the extent of the disaster, to summon aid and 
make reports to other officials, to keep in touch with the de- 
centralized patrol force and direct its efforts, require com- 
munication facilities of the highest order. Unfortunately, it 
is just at this time, when communication is of paramount im- 
portance, that the regular channels of police communication 
are likely to fail. 

In disasters of major importance, such as earthquakes or 
tornadoes, the telephone system is usually paralyzed. 3 The 

2 For example, see the Los Angeles Disaster Belief Plan. Charts of 
all the plans adopted in California may be found in Disaster Relief 1932 
(Disaster Belief Commission, American Legion, Department of Cali- 

3 In the San Francisco earthquake and fire, all but three of the tele- 
phone exchanges were burned and of the 50,000 telephones in operation 

322 Police Communication Systems 

destruction of power stations and power lines, or the shutting 
off of power in the ruined area in order to prevent fires and 
accidents, may cause the total failure of the police signaling 
and radio systems. Destruction of telegraph and telephone 
facilities may make it impossible to summon aid from the out- 
side when the assistance is vitally needed. 

In the few disaster preparedness plans that have been for- 
mulated, scant attention has been paid to the communication 
need ; some of the plans dismiss the subject with a cursory pro- 
vision on the chart for a messenger service, or a message cen- 
ter, that relies upon the aid of Boy Scouts, motorcyclists, and 
airplane pilots. In others, the appointment of representatives 
of the telephone and telegraph companies on the executive or 
advisory committee is considered solution enough for the 
problem of providing adequate communication. 

Private organizations interested in predisaster planning 
usually mention their own need of communication facilities. 
Thus, in Disaster Relief 1932, the California Department of 
the American Legion briefly mentions the necessity of pro- 
viding for communication. The Red Cross disaster manual* 
provides for the appointment of a subcommittee on transpor- 
tation and communication, whose membership should include 
such persons as railroad officials, officials of taxicab compan- 
ies, and representatives of the Travelers' Aid Society and the 
local automobile club. The predisaster duties of this group 
are to make a survey of the transportation and communica- 
tion facilities within the chapter's jurisdiction, to make a 
survey and inventory of the airplane and radio facilities of 

before the fire, not one was in working order after the fire had been 
brought under control. Of 83,000 telephones, 1 toll and 19 local exchanges 
in Tokio, the earthquake destroyed 52,000 telephones, the 1 toll and 15 
local exchanges, and the four exchanges not destroyed were put out of 
commission. Telephone service was badly impaired in the St. Louis tor- 
nado of September, 1927, thus hindering the carrying out of a previously 
prepared plan for summoning policemen to duty in emergency by tele- 
phone. For a recent description, see Joseph A. Gerk, "How the St. Louis 
Police Department Met and Handled a Great Disaster," Proceedings of 
the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 35th Convention, June, 
1928, p. 106. 

4 Disaster-preparedness and Eelief, pp. 38-41. 

Under Disaster Conditions 323 

the community, and to establish contact with and enroll the 
services of members of the "Army Amateur Radio System" 
and the Navy's "Naval Communication Reserves." This Red 
Cross manual lays a much greater emphasis upon transporta- 
tion than upon communication. 

These communication plans, drawn up for the respective 
organizations which they are intended to serve, lack the com- 
prehensiveness which would make them adequate for a dis- 
aster plan of the community as a whole. They also lack the 
flexibility necessary to put them into operation without delay. 
Their functioning, as a rule, depends upon the assembling of 
a cumbersome array of committees whose first duty is to start 
the activities of the organization they represent. By this time, 
hours may have elapsed since the disaster occurred. 

Manifestly, the police department of a city cannot depend 
upon the plans of these agencies for communication during a 
disaster. From the moment a catastrophe strikes the commu- 
nity, the police function is paramount, and a communication 
system which will fit police requirements is imperative. More- 
over, this police-planned system can be made to fulfill the 
communication needs of all the agencies cooperating in the 
disaster project and thus achieve a unity in the governmental 
activities that is sadly lacking at present. 

The procedure that is now described and recommended has 
never been included, so far as I know, in any predisaster sys- 
tem of planning. It may seem to some to be more elaborate than 
is necessary and too costly in time and effort to be practical. 
But no community is in a state of preparedness unless the 
plan provides for the ultimate in disasters the destruction 
of the whole city or the greater part of it. Such cataclysms, as 
we have seen, do occur frequently enough to justify indeed, 
to demand the most careful planning in advance of their un- 
expected appearance. Preparation for the worst will afford 
adequate preparation for the less serious contingencies. More- 
over, although the plan involves the initial expenditure of 
considerable effort and some funds, once this expenditure has 
been made the routine maintenance of the plan is not difficult, 

324 Police Communication Systems 

and neither the initial outlay nor the upkeep is beyond the 
resources of an ordinary police department. 

As the first step in the preparation of the disaster commu- 
nication system, the police department should make a com- 
munication survey of the community. 

Aside from the commercial telephone and telegraph com- 
panies, the facilities of which will be the mainstay of com- 
munication if they are not destroyed or paralyzed, the chief 
reliance in time of disaster must be upon radio communica- 
tion, since its operation is independent of land-wire connec- 
tions. The location of all commercial radio broadcasting and 
code stations, their sources of power, and their possession or 
nonpossession of emergency power-supply units which can be 
utilized in the event of the destruction of the regular power 
plants and lines, should be carefully ascertained and cata- 
logued. Too much reliance cannot, in time of disaster, be 
placed upon commercial broadcasting stations. They would 
undoubtedly cooperate to the best of their ability, but most of 
their time on the air is contracted for long in advance, and 
since their use cannot be commandeered by the local authori- 
ties, any interference with these regular programs would 
mean a financial loss for which it would be necessary to com- 
pensate the station. Their use, therefore, might involve an 
expense which it is possible to avoid. There is available, how- 
ever, a most prolific source of communication equipment, 
skill, and interest, namely, the amateur radio operators. 
Every city and town in the United States can boast of radio 
amateurs. These men are licensed by the United States De- 
partment of Commerce, which each year publishes a list of 
amateurs holding licenses, together with their call number, 
type of station, and other pertinent information. 5 A complete 
survey should be made of the amateur radio equipment within 
the police jurisdiction, including the number of operators, the 
location and type of equipment that each possesses, the source 
of power upon which each set depends, and any independent 

5 This publication may be obtained by addressing the Superintendent 
of Documents, Washington, D. C. 

Under Disaster Conditions 325 

auxiliary source of power supply. Special note should be 
made of the location of amateurs who own portable transmit- 
ters and licenses for their operation. 

From among the available amateur personnel, the police 
should organize a police communication reserve to be used in 
times of emergency. 6 

Several years ago it occurred to both Army and Navy offi- 
cials that the amateur radio operators of the United States 
could be utilized to great advantage as a communication re- 
serve and at the same time serve as a valuable training ground 
for the military and naval establishments. Accordingly, they 
organized the "Army Amateur Radio System" and the "Naval 
Communication Reserves," two nation-wide groups of ama- 
teur radio operators ready to serve at a moment's notice. 

The territorial organization of both these groups is based 
upon the regular Army and Navy organization. The entire 
Army Amateur Radio System is controlled by a master con- 
trol station at Fort Myer, Va., and operated by remote control 
stations. In each state in a corps area a control station super- 
vises all the army amateurs in the state. Each state is also di- 
vided into districts, with district control stations from which 
the work of the individual amateur members of the system in 
that district is directed. Similarly, the Naval Communication 
Reserves are under the supervision of the senior central sta- 
tion at Washington, D. C. Each Naval district forms a district 
communication reserve and contains two amateur stations 
with a naval call, one being the control station and the other 
functioning as an alternate control station. The district re- 
serve is, in turn, divided into sections consisting of a large city 
or some other geographical area, and each section is decen- 
tralized into a number of units, each comprising a varying 
number of amateur radio stations. 7 

The willingness of the amateurs to aid in disaster work is shown by 
a news item in which the East Bay section of the American Radio Eelay 
League offered their services to the city manager of Oakland, Calif., in 
the event of an unforeseen emergency which would cripple existing com- 
munication facilities. This attitude is typical of the entire organization. 

7 As a concrete example, the Naval Communication Eeserves in the 

326 Police Communication Systems 

Weekly drills are held in both systems, starting from the 
lowest units of the network and progressing until the corps 
area or naval district is reached. The Naval Communication 
Reserves on the West Coast hold a weekly drill between San 
Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland, and 
Honolulu, covering several naval districts. Frequent national 
drills are held by both organizations to test the speed and pre- 
paredness of the members. 

The value of these two reserve organizations has been 
proved in many situations. The work that the local organiza- 
tion of the reserves is in a position to perform is well illus- 
trated by two incidents that occurred in California in 1932 
and 1933. When a sudden flood swept down the Tehachapi 
Pass, spreading death and destruction in its wake, members 
of the Army Amateur Radio System at Bakersfield, Calif., 
by means of portable radio equipment established contact 
between the place of the disaster and Bakersfield, when all 
other facilities of communication were disrupted. In. Janu- 
ary, 1933, heavy snows tore down three miles of telephone 
poles at Palm Grove, Calif., cutting off all communication 
with that small community. An army amateur radio operator 
established communication with Los Angeles and so made it 
possible to stop automobiles from setting out along the roads 
which were blocked with snow, and to obtain supplies which 
were badly needed. For three days all communication between 
Palm Grove and other cities went through the amateur station. 

The potential value of these organizations in times of dis- 
aster was recognized by the National Red Cross, which in 
1930 developed a plan by which its national headquarters, 

12th District cover northern California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. 
The control station is situated in San Francisco, the alternate station is 
in Oakland. Section 1 comprises Oakland and the east shore of San Fran- 
cisco Bay and has four units; Section 2 covers San Francisco and its 
peninsula, with four units ; Section 3 is the San Joaquin Valley, and 
includes three units with two others planned; Section 4 is the Santa 
Clara Valley and Coast, with four actual and one planned units ; Section 
5 covers northern California and contains six units ; Section 6 comprises 
Nevada and has two units ; Section 7 is the state of Utah, with one unit 
at Salt Lake City, and Section 8 is the state of Colorado, in which are 
located two units. 

Under Disaster Conditions 327 

area branch offices, and local chapters could utilize these re- 
serves in sending 1 messages when normal lines of communica- 
tion are inoperative. 8 

No attempt is made by either the Army or the Navy to en- 
roll all amateur radio operators in its reserve organization. 
Since the Naval Communication Reserve, unlike the Army 
Amateur Radio System, is composed of regularly enrolled 
Naval Reserve members, subject to call to the regular naval 
service in time of need, every member of this organization 
must meet the rigid physical requirements for enlistment in 
the Navy. This prevents many fine radio amateurs from join- 
ing the service. These requirements do not operate in the 
Army Amateur Radio System, a strictly civilian organization. 

Both systems attempt to enroll only a sufficient number of 
amateurs to make up a complete communication reserve in 
each section of the country. Of all the amateurs available, 
choice is made of those having the best equipment and the 
most suitable location. A locality may therefore have many 
more competent operators than are required or utilized by 
the Army and Navy systems. The police department thus has 
a greater amateur radio reserve to draw from than the entire 
group represented by the members of these two systems. 

The police communication reserve should include those 
amateurs living in the police jurisdiction who are best quali- 
fied by experience, and who have the best equipment. Every 
attempt should be made, however, to include in the police 
communication group some members of the Army and Navy 
Amateur Reserves. Conversely, all the regular police radio 
operators who can qualify should enroll in one or the other 
of the military communication reserves. The police and mili- 
tary systems will not conflict, but will rather supplement each 

The primary purpose of the police network is to set up 
or maintain complete intracity or -district communication. 

8 American National Bed Cross, Annual Report, June 30, 1930, p. 29. 
Annual Report, Chief Signal Officer of Army to Secretary of War, 1930. 
Annual Report, Secretary of the Navy, 1930. 

328 Police Communication Systems 

Through its interlocking membership in the two military 
networks, it will be able to provide intercity and interstate 
communication. The use of members of the military commu- 
nication reserves in the police communication system would 
not be allowed to interfere with their duties in these organi- 
zations. In emergencies where the military forces are not 
called upon for assistance, the use of these men in the police 
communication reserves would give them valuable practical 

In grave situations where military strength is required to 
supplement the regular police force, the use of these amateurs 
by the Army and the police would very often be the same in 
scope and in purpose. In serious situations that require the 
establishment of martial rule there would of course be no con- 
flict, since in such contingencies the military would entirely 9 
supplant the police force in maintaining order in the com- 

Besides the amateur radio network, which should serve as 
the backbone of the disaster communication system, the com- 
munication survey should not overlook other valuable sources 
of aid. Almost all the existing disaster plans provide for a 
message center to supplement other communication facilities. 
This center can make use of Boy Scouts as messengers and 
signal agents, since many scouts are proficient in the art of 
wigwag signaling. Lists of persons with motorcycles and auto- 
mobiles who are willing to cooperate in the formation of a 
motor unit for communication and other purposes, should be 

Airplanes can be very useful in times of disaster in survey- 
ing the devastated area, in transmission of messages, and in 
carrying passengers and bringing aid to isolated victims. 10 A 

9 In respect to members of the Naval Communication Eeserves, the 
situation is slightly different ; its members are regularly enrolled Naval 
Eeserves, whose first duty, under the law, is to the Navy. This difference, 
however, would obtain only in a disaster that made necessary a call to 
duty by the Navy. 

10 The great value of airplanes in disasters has been clearly demon- 
strated in several catastrophes, including the New England flood of 
1927 and the southeastern floods of 1929. The Bed Cross has developed 

Under Disaster Conditions 329 

number of police departments have already included the air- 
plane as part of the departmental motor equipment, and have 
equipped these planes with two-way radio communication ap- 
paratus so that direct contact is possible between the plane 
and police headquarters and the ground force. 11 Where the 
police do not own airplanes, a survey should be made of the 
civilian and commercial airplane resources of the community 
and a list made of those which would be available for use in 
times of disaster. 

The survey should also include the extensive communica- 
tion resources of railroad companies whose facilities serve the 
area covered by the disaster plan. Inquiries addressed to the 
major transportation companies in the United States have 
brought assurances of their willingness to cooperate with the 
police authorities in situations where normal communication 
facilities are disabled. In the words of R. D. Starbuck, Execu- 
tive Vice-President of the New York Central Lines, "In the 
event of a major catastrophe, the railroad company would of 
course take immediate steps to restore its own lines of com- 
munication which are necessary in the operation of its trains, 
and under such conditions would cooperate with the police 
authorities in the use of such communicating system to the 
extent of its capacity pending the reestablishment of regular 
lines of communication." 

Disaster communication preparedness is not finished when 
the organization of the communication reserves has been com- 
pleted. The organization is valueless unless it is kept up to 
date and in working order by frequent drills and constant 

what is known as the Red Cross Air-Ground Message Code, which, in the 
absence of radio equipment, may be used by members of the Air Corps 
of the United States Army and other aviators for communication with 
marooned populations in a devastated area. For this code, see the dis- 
aster manual of the Eed Cross, App. IX, p. 70. 

11 In 1930 the New York City Police Department created an air service 
division equipped with 4 amphibian planes and 1 land plane, and em- 
ploying 12 pilots and 24 mechanics. This experiment proved successful 
and the division has been continued. In 1931 the personnel was reduced 
to 6 pilots and 14 mechanics, but more miles were flown and more flying 
hours were recorded than in the previous year. See Annual Report of 
the Police Department of the City of New York, 1930, pp. 63-65 ; ibid., 
1931, pp. 169-170. 

330 Police Communication Systems 

revision of the lists. The necessity of frequent drilling of the 
police amateur reserves cannot be overemphasized, for such 
drills are essential in keeping up the interest of the members 
and giving them the practice that will ensure their proper 
functioning in time of need. Both the Army Amateur Radio 
System and the Naval Communication Reserves drill once each 
week and hold national and special operations frequently. 
The police communication reserves would do well to follow 
this practice. 

The lists containing the names and addresses of persons 
who have volunteered to give aid or equipment in the event 
of disaster must be periodically revised for changes of ad- 
dress, etc. Practice in operation should be had at varying 
intervals for the benefit of certain volunteer organizations, 
such as the Boy Scouts, who should be given opportunity to 
participate in mimic emergencies. The remaining personnel, 
for whom periodic drilling would be impracticable, should be 
assembled several times a year, and, in between times, litera- 
ture should be distributed by mail in order to maintain their 
interest and to keep them well acquainted with the work that 
they have undertaken to do in an emergency. 

How much special equipment for disaster communication 
should a police department own ? When all regular communi- 
cation facilities have been destroyed, the police communica- 
tion problem approximates that of military communication 
in the field. To meet this need the Army uses the following 
facilities : wire communication, including the telephone and 
telegraph, the radio, visual signaling, messengers, and hom- 
ing pigeons. 12 Theoretically, it might be maintained that a 
police department should be equipped with all the facilities 
used by the Army in order to be completely prepared for dis- 
aster communication. Practically speaking, this would be im- 
possible, and it is also unnecessary. 

12 U. S. War Department, Training Regulations, No. 160-5, "Signal 
Communication for All Arms and Services." For a complete description 
of military communication equipment and practice, see the following: 
Basic Field Manual, Vol. IV, Signal Communication; Signal Corps Man- 
ual, Vol. I, Signal Troops; ibid., Vol. II, Signal Corps Operation. 

Under Disaster Conditions 331 

Some may hold that the police do not need any special dis- 
aster communication equipment, because, in any major con- 
tingency, the military forces are usually called out and they 
can supply adequate communication facilities both for them- 
selves and for the police ; until the military forces arrive, the 
radio facilities of the police communication reserves, and per- 
haps of the police department, will suffice. This idea, which 
is more or less generally held, involves no expenditure by the 
city concerned and shifts the burden of disaster communica- 
tion upon another agency of government, and so may appeal 
to those who hold the pursestrings of the community, and 
who may be inclined to overlook other considerations. 

Great disasters or extreme emergencies in the United States 
have almost always found either the Federal troops or the 
National Guard on the scene. 13 When these forces arrive, they 
bring with them the facilities for maintaining peace and order 
in the district, including, of course, necessary communica- 
tion equipment. Some time may elapse, however, before these 
forces reach the place where they are needed. Requests for 
Federal troops are usually made to the governor or legisla- 
ture of a state and such formalities take time." 

Even if the proportions of the disaster are so great that the 
corps area or local commander of troops will take action on 
his own responsibility and without awaiting orders, the troops 
may be stationed at some distance from the stricken area and 
thus not be instantly available. The National Guard may be 

18 From the time of the adoption of the Constitution of the United 
States to 1925 Federal troops have been used in the suppression of do- 
mestic disturbances on more than one hundred separate occasions. See 
Military Aid to the Civil Power, General Service Schools, Fort Leaven - 
Avorth, Kan., 1925. Examples of the use of the National Guard are in- 

14 For a discussion of the legal basis of military aid to the civil power, 
and the occasions on which the Army and National Guard will render 
such aid, see War Department, Army Regulations, 50060 ; Military Aid 
to the Civil Power, General Service Schools, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., 
1925 ; and publications of the National Guard of the several states, such 
as Employment of Troops of the California National Guard in Disaster, 
Special Regulation No. 3, prepared by the 40th Division Staff, State of 
California, Office of the Adjutant General, Sacramento, Calif., January 
1, 1928. 

332 Police Communication Systems 

called out, but it may not possess all the necessary communi- 
cation equipment. In this interval, unless the police are pre- 
pared with sufficient equipment, the community is exposed to 
the dangers of inadequate police protection. 

There are other considerations to be borne in mind. Al- 
though the military forces have always been and are ready to 
assist in cases of genuine need, there is a justified feeling 
among Army officials that the civil authorities are sometimes 
too prone to shift their burdens and responsibilities upon the 
military when this is not absolutely necessary. They feel that 
a little planning and foresight on the part of the police au- 
thorities would enable them to handle alone, or with the aid 
available in the community, many situations which the mili- 
tary force is now called upon to cope with. 

The unprepared state of most communities and of their 
police departments for a disaster would lead one to suspect 
that there is much truth in this opinion. A police department 
with a well-prepared plan of disaster communication, supple- 
mented by equipment necessary to the operation of the plan, 
would insure itself against such criticism. The total amount 
of special equipment required is not large and the cost is well 
within the means of any community large enough to need a 
disaster preparedness plan. 

Some of the methods of communication used by the Army 
in the field are provided in the disaster communication plan, 
while others are of so limited usefulness that it would be im- 
practicable to include them. Messenger service is provided 
for through the use of Boy Scouts and men equipped with 
motorcycles and automobiles. Visual signaling in a limited 
way can be furnished by the Scouts who are skilled in the use 
of the wigwag and any grown men in veterans' organizations 
who may be trained in such work. Some disaster plans have 
set up a simple code of audible signals using factory whistles 
or special sirens located at strategic points. 15 

15 The Providence, R. I v disaster plan provides for sending signals to 
relief workers by factory and locomotive whistles, should telephone com- 
munication be destroyed. Berkeley, Calif., is provided with a powerful 
siren placed on top of the tallest office building in the city, to assemble 

Under Disaster Conditions 333 

More elaborate provision for visual and audible signals is 
impracticable because of the limited usefulness. The police 
might even use homing pigeons if arrangements had been pre- 
viously made with some fancier's loft. Pigeons will not stay 
away from their home loft more than seventy-two hours, and 
their use is attended with some difficulty, so that it is not ad- 
visable to depend upon them except under extraordinary con- 

Wire communication by telephone and telegraph, and 
radio, remains to be considered. Undoubtedly field telephones 
and telegraph sets would be of great benefit to the police in 
disasters. Satisfactory transmission over field telephones 
ranges from nine to twenty miles, depending on various fac- 
tors such as type of wire used, insulation, and construction. 
Field telegraphs may use the same lines as the telephone, and 
they have a much greater range than telephones over the same 

Field telephones and telegraphs are easily constructed, for 
the wires may be strung hastily on all sorts of objects, or may 
be laid upon the ground. 10 Telephones must of course be of the 
local battery type to be usable in the field. This type of tele- 
phone is no longer used commercially except in some rural 
areas, and it is doubtful whether the telephone companies 
stock local battery telephones at all or in sufficient quantities 
for the police to rely upon their stores in case of need. 

Neither can the police borrow field communication equip- 
ment from the Army, which is completely equipped in this 
respect, but which cannot lend to other agencies any equip- 
ment from its storehouses without specific authorization from 
the Secretary of War. If the military forces were called out, 
they would bring their field telephones with them, as they 
did in San Francisco in 1906, and the police would be invited 

the police and fire departments in times of emergency. If the buildings 
were not destroyed and the power lines were intact, this would prove very 

18 When the telephone company was reestablishing temporary service 
after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, a line from one of the in- 
tact exchanges to the Ferry Building was strung along buildings and 
posts of all kinds, and even dropped into the street slots of the cable cars. 

334 Police Communication Systems 

to make use of them. But in disasters where the police can 
cope with the situation alone, this Army equipment will not 
be available. 

The police will therefore be forced to buy field telephone 
equipment if they are to count upon its use in emergencies. 
The expense that the purchase of field telephone and telegraph 
equipment would involve, and the fact that radio equipment 
would in all probability fill the communication needs of the 
police in a disaster, make it inadvisable to include field tele- 
phone equipment in the emergency plan. 

By a process of elimination we have narrowed down the 
special equipment necessary in the emergency police com- 
munication plan to the radio equipment. For communica- 
tion with the outside world, and for communication with all 
strategic points in the devastated area, the only equipment 
needed is the necessary number of high-frequency portable 
radio transmitters. The police communication reserves satisfy 
the requirements of the first function, and this arrangement 
is supplemented in any one of a hundred or more cities in 
which police departments are already equipped for one-way 
radio communication with the patrol force. Standard police 
transmitters may be employed for communication over lim- 
ited territorial distances, since in some places this equipment 
has an effective service radius of a hundred miles or more. 

At least one portable transmitter is needed by each depart- 
ment to serve as a central control for the police amateur radio 
reserve net in periodic drills and emergencies. In cities with 
a large area, it may be desirable to have several portable trans- 
mitters placed at various strategic points. 

The rapid expansion of two-way radio communication in 
regular police patrol service is providing the basis for a 
powerful and effective system of communication between 
headquarters and the affected area in disaster or other emer- 
gencies. With high-frequency transmitters installed in patrol 
cars, these flexible units are constantly in two-way com- 
munication with headquarters, and with other patrol cars so 
equipped. Where necessary, each car may be stationed at a 

Under Disaster Conditions 335 

strategic point to function as a decentralized police station, 
issuing orders and instructions direct from the scene of ac- 
tion, and at the same time keeping headquarters thoroughly 
informed of the state of affairs in the area. Ordinarily, these 
cars may be permitted to continue to patrol the area, since 
two-way communication may be carried on en route equally 
as well as at the fixed post. 

Through this extremely flexible avenue of communication, 
all direct police functions may be competently discharged, 
and the work of relief and rehabilitation facilitated. The 
ability to place two-way patrol communication in the field 
gives to the police department a large measure of desirable, 
if not absolutely necessary, control over all postdisaster op- 

Regardless of the division of the disaster plan into two 
major parts providing separately for the usual police duties 
and for relief and rehabilitation, the operations are so closely 
related that their proper coordination is dependent upon the 
existence of one central directing authority. Up to the point 
where martial rule is declared, the fundamental nature of the 
police duties suggests no other alternative than to lodge that 
authority at police headquarters. Any other organizational 
arrangement must lead to confusion and delay at a time when 
rapid action is most imperative. 

The provision of power supply for transmitters is impor- 
tant. Patrol-car transmitters, of course, are operated by 
batteries and generators installed in the car and so they are 
independent of any commercial source of current supply. The 
greater number of central-station transmitters, however, re- 
ceive their power from the commercial mains and, in the 
absence of auxiliary power equipment, would immediately 
become inoperative if either the power plant or transmission 
lines are destroyed or paralyzed. Many radio-equipped de- 
partments are providing themselves with gasoline-driven gen- 
erators, battery units, and other similar equipment which can 
be promptly placed in operation should the commercial power 
fail. Because of the dependence which must be placed upon 

336 Police Communication Systems 

radio communication under disaster conditions, no depart- 
ment should delay in making provision for this auxiliary 
equipment. Its cost of installation is comparatively low, yet 
in time of dire need it is literally beyond value. Attention 
should also be directed to the possibilities of the multifold 
carrier current control system of communication over com- 
mercial light and telephone lines under disaster conditions. 
The chief usefulness of this system lies in the fact that even 
though grounds and broken and short circuits may have oc- 
curred in these lines as a result of the disaster, the transmis- 
sion of signals may go through just the same. 

Quite apart from the catastrophe or calamity arising from 
physical causes, a disaster communication organization may 
prove of great usefulness in social disturbances, such as prison 
outbreaks, race riots, industrial disorders, and political up- 
heavals, which may break out at any time and prove destruc- 
tive to both life and property. The events of the last few years 
have shown how frequently such disturbances occur and how 
necessary it may be for the police to be prepared in advance 
to meet them. In many of these situations, violence has been 
lessened and communication has been provided through the 
ordinary police-communication facilities. With these events 
we are not here concerned. When, however, such disturbances 
involve widespread destruction of property, including the 
destruction or crippling of the communication facilities of 
the city or of the police, or of some other essential utilities of 
the community, the problems facing the police would be iden- 
tical with those attendant upon destructive flood, earthquake, 
or fire. 



r I IHE FIRST KNOWN scientific observation on finger ridges 
A was made in 1686 by Malpighi, the father of the science 
of histology and a professor of anatomy at the University of 
Bologna, who tersely alluded to the ridges which "describe 
different patterns." In 1823, J. E. Purkinje, a professor of 
anatomy at the University of Breslau, in a Latin thesis com- 
mented upon the diversity of ridge patterns connected with 
the organs of touch and even evolved a vague differentiation 
of these patterns 1 into nine varieties. 

In order to lessen the difficulty of dealing with large collec- 
tions, Sir E. R. Henry, Commissioner of Scotland Yard, Lon- 
don, devised a simple, yet comprehensive system of classifying 
and filing prints. His system was successfully introduced into 
England and Wales in July, 1901, and it forms the basis for 
the present system of fingerprint identification in the United 

According to the Henry system, all fingerprint impres- 
sions are divided into the following types of patterns : loops, 
twinned loops, central pocket loops, lateral pocket loops, 
arches, tented arches, whorls, and accidentals. By means of 
these patterns, together with the ridges intervening and sur- 
rounding two fixed points, known as the core and the delta, 
a classification for the ten fingers is developed. This classifi- 
cation permits the filing of fingerprint records in sequence, 
without reference to name, description, or crime specialty of 
the individual, and, with some amplification and extension in 
the larger fingerprint bureaus in the United States, enables 

1 See Criminal Identification, by J. Edgar Hoover, Director, Federal 
Bureau of Investigation, United States Department of Justice, Wash- 
ington, D. C. The interested reader is also referred to a number of other 
publications dealing with the identification functions of the Federal 
Bureau of Investigation, obtainable on request. 


338 Police Communication Systems 

the fingerprint expert in a bureau containing millions of 
prints to establish an identification in less than five minutes. 

Following the general introduction of this infallible system 
of identification, individual police departments immediately 
began the organization of fingerprint bureaus in which were 
catalogued and filed the prints of persons arrested locally. 
This limitation to the classification and filing of a few hun- 
dred local fingerprints inevitably proved a serious handicap. 
For the local bureau, operating independently and for all 
practical purposes isolated from other police identification 
bureaus, could not meet the demands of the department in 
the search for criminal records of arrested suspects who had 
come in from other places. Therefore, when the idea of ex- 
changing fingerprints between the bureaus of neighboring 
police departments was introduced, its importance was at 
once appreciated by both the police and the criminal. This 
turning point in identification procedure marked the begin- 
ning of a rapid expansion in the functions and effectiveness 
of the individual identification bureau. 

The identification bureau of each police department, in- 
stead of taking only one set of fingerprints of all persons ar- 
rested within its jurisdiction, took three or more, sometimes 
as many as thirty, depending upon the number of depart- 
ments with which prints were exchanged. One print, properly 
classified and recorded, was "searched" and filed in the local 
bureau. The others were mailed to the outside police depart- 
ments with which agreements had been made. Thus these po- 
lice departments soon built up in their respective bureaus of 
identification comprehensive fingerprint files containing the 
records and prints of all known criminals or suspects in the 
territory covered. 

But this plan, too, had limitations. Migratory criminals, 
the most elusive and dangerous of all criminal classes, sel- 
dom confine their operations to a localized area. They know 
no boundary lines and the state-wide and interstate scope of 
their activities is common knowledge. To meet this situation, 
there were two alternatives. The system of fingerprint ex- 

Communication and Identification 339 

changes could be extended to cover a large area, or all the 
police agencies in a given state might pool their identification 
resources in a centralized clearinghouse for criminal infor- 
mation. The first alternative was obviously impractical. The 
exchange of fingerprints among police departments within a 
comparatively small area was an economical and useful de- 
vice, but when extended to include more than eight or ten 
police departments, it became cumbersome and unwieldy. 

The nature of the problem, together with the advantages 
of centralizing criminal records, led to the creation of the 
state bureau of identification, to which all police agencies in 
the state might subscribe, and to which each department for- 
warded the fingerprints and records of all persons arrested 
and wanted. Thus was formed a huge centralized depository 
of criminal information covering a wide territory. One has 
only to glance at the annual reports of any one of these or- 
ganizations to appreciate their value to society in the modern 
battle against crime. 2 

It was a natural development from this point to the crea- 
tion of a bureau of identification which would serve the police 
departments of the country on a national scale. The United 
States Department of Justice had established a fingerprint 
bureau at the Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, Leaven- 
worth, Kan., in 1904, which at first contained the fingerprints 
from Federal prisons only; but its operations were soon 
expanded by the maintenance of a free exchange service 
whereby criminal records were received and circulated among 
a growing list of contributing police officers. Earlier, the In- 

2 Twenty-five state bureaus of identification are now in operation, and 
their number is constantly growing. Existing organizations are situated 
at: Albany, N. Y. ; Austin, Tex.; Baton Rouge, La.; Bismarck, N. D. 
Boston, Mass. ; Charleston, W. Va. ; Concord, N. H. ; Des Moines, Iowa 
Harrisburg, Pa.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Lansing, Mich.; Lincoln, Nebr. 
Little Eock, Ark. ; London, Ohio ; Oklahoma City, Okla. ; Phoenix, Ariz. 
Pierre, S. D. ; Providence, E. I. ; Ealeigh, N. C. ; Sacramento, Calif. 
Salem, Ore. ; Salt Lake City, Utah ; Santa Fe, N. M. ; Springfield, 111. 
St. Paul, Minn. ; Trenton, N. J. ; Walla Walla, Wash. ; Windsor, Vt. 

Also see Appendix 10, p. 552, for condensed summary of Report of 
the Activities of the California State Division of Criminal Identification 
and Investigation, for the biennial period ending June 30, 1936. 

340 Police Communication Systems 

ternational Association of Chiefs of Police, which embraces 
in its membership the heads of police departments of all the 
principal cities of the United States and Canada, had, in 1896, 
founded a bureau at Washington, compiling Bertillon rec- 
ords. As its members began adopting the fingerprint system 
of identification, this bureau gradually acquired a valuable 
collection of fingerprint records. 

The growing and insistent demand by police officials 
throughout the country for one system of cooperation on a 
national scale finally resulted in the creation of the Identi- 
fication Division, which was placed under the jurisdiction of 
the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In 1924, this newly or- 
ganized Division received and consolidated in Washington, 
D. C., the records of both the National Bureau of Criminal 
Identification and the Leavenworth Penitentiary Bureau, 
and since its creation has shown a remarkable growth and 

On May 31, 1937, it possessed 7,236,270 fingerprint records 
of actual current value and 8,457,284 name index-cards. More 
than 9000 law-enforcement agencies throughout the United 
States and foreign countries were submitting prints to the 
Bureau on that date. The degree to which law-enforcement 
officials utilize the services of this huge clearinghouse for 
criminal records is indicated by the following statistics cover- 
ing the activities of the Bureau during the fiscal year 1935. 

Free from political control and under the able leadership 
of Mr. J. Edgar Hoover, its Director, the Federal Bureau 
of Investigation, by its record of achievement, has demon- 
strated that it has no equal anywhere in the world. Through 
its Identification Division it has placed at the disposal of the 
police throughout this country a centralized reservoir of 
criminal records and information that has increased the ef- 
fectiveness of police service in every community. 

More than 5375 fingerprint records are now received daily 
by the Identification Division and each inquiry is answered 
by letter within thirty-six hours of its receipt. All peace of- 
ficials are invited to avail themselves of the information con- 

Communication and Identification 341 

tained in the files of this Division. Its service is given to all 
legally constituted law-enforcement agencies, free of any 
cost ; in fact, fingerprint cards and franked envelopes for the 
transmission of records to the Washington office are supplied 
free of charge. 

Generally speaking, the methods of criminal investigation 
employed in the United States are similar to those followed 
by law-enforcement agencies in foreign countries. Finger- 
prints, photographs, modus operandi files, ballistics, hand- 
writing, scientific laboratory analysis, and anthropometry are 
used in various combinations to form the basis of criminal 
identification in all the civilized countries of the world. In 
order to cope with the international criminal, many foreign 
bureaus now cooperate with the Federal Bureau of Investi- 
gation, in an international exchange of criminal identifica- 
tion data. 3 

Separated by comparatively great distances, these bureaus 
must be in intimate contact with one another in order to facil- 
itate the intercommunication of criminal records and infor- 
mation with speed and dispatch. And the police department, 
immediate benefactor of this gigantic identification machine, 
must have at its disposal adequate facilities for rapid com- 
munication with identification centers, including more par- 
ticularly the state and national bureaus, local police bureaus, 

3 One of the activities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation which 
has attracted widespread interest and contributed materially to the 
cause of more effective law enforcement throughout the world is its reg- 
ular exchange of fingerprints with the identification bureaus of foreign 
countries. This project was instituted in March, 1932. Since that time 
the superintendents of identification bureaus in Accra (Gold Coast 
Colony), Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, 
Belgium, Bermuda, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burma, Canada, Ceylon, Chile, 
China, Colombia, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Danzig, Denmark, Dutch East 
Indies, Egypt, England, Estonia, Federated Malay States, Finland, 
France, Germany, Greece, Haiti, Holland, Hungary, India, Iran, Iraq, 
Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, New 
Zealand, Norway, Nyasaland, Palestine, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portu- 
gal, Pretoria, Republic of Panama, Roumania, Scotland, Sierra Leone 
(Africa), Southern Rhodesia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, 
Uruguay, and Yugoslavia, as well as the superintendents of identifica- 
tion bureaus of all the territories and possessions of the United States, 
such as Hawaii, Canal Zone, Alaska, Philippine Islands, Puerto Rico, 
and Virgin Islands, have participated in this activity. 

342 Police Communication Systems 

and those of the penal institutions. Communication facilities 
which may be employed for this purpose include correspond- 
ence, the long-distance telephone, the telegraph, teletype, tele- 
photo, and television. 

Actual fingerprint cards, which can be sent through the 
mails, present always the most definite and tangible means 
for positive identifications. Because of the accuracy and cer- 
tainty of this method, it is employed almost exclusively. With 
the actual prints of a suspect in the hands of the fingerprint 
expert, an intelligent search may be instituted, and an accu- 
rate and absolute determination made of its identity with 
other fingerprints on file. In the periodical forwarding of 
fingerprint exchanges, the mails afford a slow but reliable 
means of contact. The spectacular development of air-mail 
service in the United States has done much to reduce the de- 
lay entailed by correspondence ; special delivery and regis- 
tered mail services are also employed where additional speed 
or certainty of delivery must be assured. 

The mails, however, do not meet fully the requirements of 
the police for speed of communication in criminal identifi- 
cation routine. They will eventually be used, particularly in 
important matters, only as a means for confirmation of com- 
munications already forwarded in other ways which offer 
maximum speed plus a reasonable degree of accuracy. 

It is agreed among experts that it is possible to make an 
approximate fingerprint identification in a long-distance tele- 
phone conversation. In a detailed two-way discussion, the 
formula, pattern, ridge characteristics, and other details of 
individual prints, the identity of criminal histories on file, 
and the comparison of personal descriptions, may be said to 
afford a basis for probable identification. This method, how- 
ever, possesses the serious disadvantage of extremely high 
cost, particularly over great distances, and is used only rarely. 

The commercial telegraph systems, particularly the West- 
ern Union and the Postal Telegraph companies, are pecul- 
iarly fitted to serve the police in emergencies when the rapid 
communication of a message between two or more distant 

Communication and Identification 343 

points is required. Their lines penetrate into every corner of 
the country and over cables to every part of the world, form- 
ing a network of communication available at comparatively 
small cost. 

The police teletypewriter network possesses all the advan- 
tages of the commercial telegraph systems with the additional 
merit that it is operated and controlled by the police them- 
selves, and is used exclusively for police purposes. An earlier 
chapter (Chap. VII) has afforded some idea of the widespread 
adoption by the police of the teletypewriter as a major in- 
strument of communication. 

The telephotographic system of communication is one of 
great promise in the field of distant identification. Known to 
the layman as a method of transmitting pictures by wire, tele- 
photo makes possible the transmission of a facsimile of a set 
of fingerprints from one point to another, irrespective of the 
distance which may separate them. Obviously, this method 
approximates the actual comparison of the original prints. 
Identification experts, in the Identification Division at Wash- 
ington, D. C., and elsewhere, have officially acknowledged the 
accuracy of identification of fingerprints transmitted by this 
method. Telephotography has passed the experimental state 
and is today a practical means of communication. In 1925, 
coast to coast telephoto operating circuits and equipment 
were placed in operation. The system is chiefly useful in the 
transmission of information in which form and arrangement 
are the essential factors. In this category, so far as the police 
are concerned, fall criminal fingerprints, handwriting, photo- 
graphs, and certain forms of evidence. 

It is to be recognized, however, that the elements of time 
and expense are of dominating importance in the electrical 
transmission of pictures. Present telephoto facilities are to 
be used only where the information must be received with 
greater speed than is possible through more economical 
methods of communication. The urgency of obtaining accu- 
rate information must be matched against the cost of elec- 
trical transmission, which at present is somewhat greater than 


Police Communication Systems 

Pictures received over the Australian telephoto system: 
a, enlarged photograph of a fingerprint ; b, enlarged sec- 
tion of a picturegram print in which the scanning lines 
are clearly visible. 

Communication and Identification 345 

the cost of telephone conversations occupying the same length 
of time. The average time required to transmit a set of finger- 
prints is approximately seven minutes. 

Telephotograph service, or the transmission of pictures by 
wire, permits the transmission, over wires connecting any 
two points, of photographs, fingerprints, portraits, printed 
matter, lithographs, process prints, manuscripts, mechanical 
drawings, X-ray pictures, letters, messages, or, in fact, any- 
thing that can be photographed. Commercial telephoto serv- 
ice has been discontinued recently and all telephoto facilities 
have been leased to press organizations. A complete list of 
subscribing newspapers may be obtained from the Associated 

Telephotographic transmission, however, is commercially 
in its infancy. It is the history of all communication devel- 
opments that, in the introductory stage, their general use is 
attended with expense. Improvement in equipment and op- 
erating technique will inevitably come and, with it, a reduc- 
tion in the operating cost which will be reflected in a more 
nominal charge for its use. Expansion of telephoto facilities 
to include a greater number of key cities would undoubtedly 
follow quickly upon a demand for this form of communica- 
tion traffic and further reduce its selling price to subscribers. 
When this happens, its increased use by police departments 
is indicated by the need for a more complete unification of 
criminal identification on a state and national scale. 

The position of radio communication in respect to distant 
identification is a matter of speculation. The presence of other 
equally effective communication facilities for the purpose in 
mind, such as the telegraph and the teletype, and the prob- 
able expansion of telephotography, may divert attention away 
from radio, so far as distant identification is concerned. It 
should not be forgotten, however, that almost every achieve- 
ment by means of land wire can be duplicated by radio trans- 
mission. Radio is a versatile instrument and has already been 
employed in picture transmission and in the simultaneous op- 
eration of typewriters at distant points. It might conceivably 

346 Police Communication Systems 

displace both land-wire telephotography and the teletype- 
writer within a comparatively short time. 

There is also the possibility of a police-controlled chain of 
radio stations operating in the higher frequencies and on or- 
ganized traffic schedules. Although no definite progress in 
this direction has been observed, the police have been aware 
of the possibilities of a network of this type since 1920, when 
Commissioner James Higgins, of Buffalo, N. Y., presented a 
plan before the International Association of Chiefs of Police 
for an intercity radio system of police communication. In 
fact, radio was first considered by the police as a possible so- 
lution to the problem of interdepartmental communication. 
Its potential value in connection with distant identification 
is obvious. 

Television should not be overlooked in any consideration of 
distant identification. A device that intrigues the imagina- 
tion with its possibilities, it may, overnight, slip through the 
barriers that retard its commercial development and become 
of major importance in social contacts. The ability to "show 
up" a line of living suspects simultaneously in fifty or more 
cities throughout the country would certainly be embarrass- 
ing for the criminal. It is not difficult to foresee the time when, 
by means of television, an identification expert in Portland, 
Ore., and identification officials at Washington, D. C., may, 
as though side by side, make an actual comparison of two sets 
of criminal fingerprints, together with the accompanying pho- 
tographs, descriptions, and criminal histories. 

The chief physical difficulty in the development of televi- 
sion is the necessity of transmitting many more image ele- 
ments than any physical means now available can generate, 
transmit, or recover. The number required is not yet agreed 
upon, but the indications are that it must be very much higher 
than anything yet attained. 

In the transmission of sound, apparatus which will faith- 
fully transmit the voice of a single person will transmit 
equally well all the voices of a chorus or the myriad tones of 
a symphony. The case of television is different. As the num- 

Communication and Identification 347 

her of faces is multiplied, the complexity of the apparatus 
and the transmission facilities must likewise be increased. 

The problem of developing and constructing television ap- 
paratus to handle satisfactorily extended scenes, such as the 
presentation of a group of criminal suspects, an athletic 
event, public ceremonies, of performances in theaters, is still 
unsolved. When the means are discovered or developed, it 
seems inevitable that the cost must be relatively high as com- 
pared with any other form of electrical communication. 

The two-way television system which is in experimental op- 
eration by the telephone company transmits only a single face 
in each direction, yet it uses communication facilities which 
would carry about fifteen telephone conversations. The cost 
of performing this relatively simple television task would, on 
a commercial basis, be many times that of ordinary telephony. 
The cost of transmitting extended scenes by television must, 
so far as the communication-channel cost is concerned, be tens 
or even hundreds of times greater than satisfactory sound 
transmission. The future of television is therefore, in large 
measure, an economic question. When the public wants it suf- 
ficiently to be willing to make it profitable, it will undoubt- 
edly become a commercially practical affair. 

The most economical and satisfactory communication faci- 
lities at present available for distant identification are, there- 
fore, the police teletype and commercial telegraph networks. 
Of these two, the police-controlled teletype system is the most 

The problem, then, is to find a satisfactory method of de- 
scribing a set of fingerprints in message form so as to make 
identification possible in the absence of the original finger- 
prints at the point of comparison. 

The desirability of identification by wire quickly became 
apparent after the widespread adoption of fingerprint iden- 
tification. The subsequent establishment of centralized clear- 
inghouses for criminal information at once made available 
to police departments exceptional facilities for fingerprint 
identification, but there was this limitation : a positive iden- 

348 Police Communication Systems 

tificatioii was dependent upon a comparison of the two sets 
of prints side by side. This involved a serious delay because 
of the necessity of forwarding prints by mail to the central 

In any alternative procedure, it will be observed, probabil- 
ity replaces certainty in the identification of fingerprints. It 
is fundamental in fingerprint identification that no method 
can take the place of actual print comparison in establishing 
absolute identity. This basic factor must enter into any plan 
for distant identification. When two sets of fingerprints, iden- 
tical or not, which are filed at different points become the sub- 
ject of communication by whatever means available, the hope 
for absolute identification must be abandoned. The degree of 
probability of identification is quite another question. 

It is at this point that confusion arises. Unwittingly, vari- 
ous exponents of distant-identification systems have defeated 
their own ends by setting up the impossible objective of posi- 
tive identification. A proposed plan is rejected or filed away 
in the archives of peace officers' associations for future refer- 
ence because of the uncertainty of the identification which 
may be made thereby. Another system, which according to its 
sponsors will give absolute accuracy of identification, is too in- 
tricate and involved for practical application, and meets the 
fate of its predecessor. An ideal to be useful must be possible 
of achievement. Positive identification, desirable though it 
may be, is impossible of attainment in any present and prac- 
tical system of distant identification, and it should therefore 
be abandoned as an objective, so that it may not continue to 
retard the development of this important matter. 

A reasonable degree of probability is all that is required. 
Even in the actual comparison, side by side, of two sets of 
fingerprints that are apparently identical, the conclusion in 
respect to positive identification is governed by the laws of 
probability. Balthazar, who used one hundred possible com- 
parison details in each print for purposes of calculation, esti- 
mated the chances of error as one in a figure that would extend 
the entire width of this page. Practically, any number of de- 

Communication and Identification 349 

details from thirty to a hundred might be used as the basis for 
expressing mathematically the probability of a print's being 
duplicated. Galton, whose figures are much the lowest of all 
investigators in this particular field, places the chance of 
duplication as one in sixty-four billions, which is four times 
the number of fingers in the world, counting the number of 
human inhabitants as 1,400,000,000, a recent estimate. 

The entire thesis of fingerprint identification rests upon 
this degree of probability. The purpose in distant identifica- 
tion is to establish a reasonable probability of identification, 
sufficient for just cause to hold a suspect pending actual ex- 
amination and comparison of the prints. With this apprecia- 
tion of the limits of the problem, it is possible to consider by 
what method the distant identification of fingerprints may 
be made. 

Here the coded message is of unlimited usefulness, its func- 
tion being, not secrecy, but rather accuracy and economy in 
transmission. The principal elements of fingerprint classifi- 
cation and identification lend themselves admirably to de- 
tailed description. It would be possible, for example, for a 
fingerprint expert to describe a set of prints so completely 
that another expert, many miles away, might intelligently 
search his files and make an identification. The distant-identi- 
fication code makes possible detailed analysis and at the same 
time reduces the length of the message so that the cost of 
transmission, even over commercial telegraph lines, is negli- 
gible. Thus, an ordinary ten-word message may contain in- 
formation enough concerning a set of fingerprints to establish 
an identification with a degree of certainty approximating 
that of actual comparison of the original prints. 

Police generally have recognized for some time the need 
for a code that would serve this purpose. More than twenty 
years ago, Thomas H. Guthrie, Secretary of Police of Co- 
lumbus, Ohio, copyrighted a code for distant identification, 
copies of which he sent with an accompanying letter to police 
departments in more than five hundred cities in the United 

350 Police Communication Systems 

States. In this circular letter, dated October 10, 1906, Guthrie 
said in part: 

I am enclosing herewith a copy of my police telegraph code, a glance 
at which will convince you that this is the thing that has long been 
needed by the police departments of this country. ... I have furnished 
500 of the leading cities of the United States with a copy of this code 
(a list of them is enclosed), and in a very short time expect to have at 
least 1000 of them in use. This will necessitate the publication of new 
lists of cities using them, from time to time, and one of these lists will 
be furnished you each time. 

A code of this kind would be useless to you or any other department 
if you were not kept informed of other departments that were supplied 
with them ; therefore, the only way to successfully handle an enterprise 
of this kind and to keep other departments informed concerning the 
various cities using them, is to handle the business from a central office. 
The time is opportune for the police departments of this country to work 
in unison, and this is a step in the right direction. 

For various reasons, Guthrie's plan failed of widespread 
adoption ; but the ground was broken. Speaking at the 1922 
convention of the International Association of Chiefs of Po- 
lice, Chief Quigley, of Rochester, N. Y., brought the subject 
into the foreground, pointing out that no satisfactory system 
had yet been developed which would make it possible to wire 
fingerprint classification in such a way that identification 
could be made or denied immediately. When the classifications 
were supplemented with Bertillon measurements, a greater 
degree of accuracy was obtainable, but the procedure involved 
was clumsy and uneconomical. At that time there was another 
difficulty. Since the system was comparatively new, the time 
in which to train men in this field was very short, and con- 
sequently there were only a few fingerprint experts in the 
United States. Fingerprint identification had yet to become 
the highly specialized police function that it is today ; but it 
did not take long to do it. 

The speedy and almost incredible expansion of the use of 
fingerprints as the principal means for criminal identifica- 
tion in police service made more apparent the necessity for 
a suitable identification code. Unintelligible telegraphic re- 
quests to the central bureaus, asking for information or iden- 

Communication and Identification 351 

tification of some individual who was being held in custody, 
were received daily, such as, for example : WIRE RECORD JAMES 


OVER TEN. To such a communication it was difficult for the 
bureau to give a helpful reply. The information contained in 
the message was insufficient for an identification or even a 
verification of one, since from two to a hundred or more sets 
of fingerprints might bear this same classification or an ap- 
proximate one. The primary, as given in the foregoing tele- 
gram, indicates that all ten digits are loop patterns ; the first 
subclassification shows both index prints to be ulnars; and 
further shows that the index prints have more than nine ridge 
counts and that the middle fingers have more than ten. The 
only actual ridge count given by the communication is that 
of the right and left little fingers. Quite clearly, the mere 
transmission of a fingerprint classification formula is insuffi- 
cient for identification purposes. 

The solution of the problem lay in the formulation of a 
definite code, by which a single word or combination of words 
would indicate the type of pattern and the individual ridge 
counts, and give an accurate description of distinctive pat- 
tern or ridge peculiarities and characteristics in such manner 
that an intelligent search might be made in a central bureau, 
regardless of the number of prints on file. 

The Jorgensen system. The subject of distant identifica- 
tion had also received attention abroad. In 1914, Haakoii Jor- 
gensen, Assistant Commissioner of Police in Copenhagen and 
Lecturer at the University of Copenhagen, in an address de- 
livered at the First International Police Conference in Mon- 
aco, presented a system by which it was possible to create a 
fingerprint formula supported with sufficient detail to make 
possible an identification at a distant point. In this classifica- 
tion of fingerprints, Jorgensen used the ordinary fingerprint 
glass specially ruled so as to divide the print into definite seg- 
ments to which were assigned permanent numerical values. 
This was the working basis of the system. In 1916 a textbook 
on distant identification appeared and courses of instruction 

352 Police Communication Systems 

were offered at the Danish Police School. By January, 1917, 
there was published the first fingerprint lexicon, containing 
the coded fingerprint classifications of more than 7500 pro- 
fessional criminals. 

By 1922 Jorgensen's system had been successfully demon- 
strated and the identification bureaus of Amsterdam, Geneva, 
Berlin, Stuttgart, Dresden, Munich, Hamburg, Vienna, and 
Warsaw expressed their willingness to cooperate in working 
out a plan for the international identification of criminals 
through the adoption of this system. 

In the plan that he presented, Jorgensen made use of the 
fingerprint identification technique that had been developed 
by Henry, Vucetich, Roscher, Daae, and others, and also of 
the Oloriz-Aguilera system of distant identification. Funda- 
mentally, his technique was much the same as that employed 
in modern single fingerprint systems, in that the individual 
print was decentralized into definite sectors. Each sector, 
bearing an individual code designation, could then be con- 
veniently described with respect to peculiarities of ridge for- 
mations and detail by numerical code assignments to eyes, 
forks, terminating ridges, deltas, and other ridge character- 
istics, and to their position in the individual sector. General 
fingerprint patterns, including whorls, loops, arches, tents, 
accidentals, central pocket and twin loops, were also given 
permanent code numbers. It was therefore possible to con- 
struct for any given set of fingerprints a standard numerical 
formula which would be identical with that for the same set 
of prints classified at another place. Jorgensen's technique 
differed from the others mentioned in that the formula con- 
tained in code form such complete and detailed information 
concerning pattern and ridge data that fast and positive 
identification was certain even though search was made in 
files containing 100,000 prints or more. The formula consisted 
of figures only, thus avoiding any linguistic complications. 

Following the adoption of Jorgensen's code by the Inter- 
national Police Conference held in New York in 1923, an ef- 
fort was made to introduce the system into American police 

Communication and Identification 353 

practice, with the use of either telegraph or telephone. At 
that time some twenty-four fingerprint experts chosen from 
various sections of the country, and including William F. 
Hoffman, now Chief of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Identi- 
fication, met at New York City to receive instruction in the 
system and its operation. Hoffman later described it as pro- 
viding a practical and positive, but too intricate, means of 
identification ; and because of its intricacy and the consequent 
difficulty of application in actual practice, the system never 
came into widespread use in America. 

Jorgensen's plan really contemplated a world- wide finger- 
print identification system and the establishment of a central- 
ized international bureau to which the police of the various 
nations would forward fingerprints of known criminals whose 
activities were international in scope. To illustrate : An inter- 
national criminal, Alexander Magindoff, alias Johann Goff- 
mansky, alias Valentine Zargensky, alias Anton Lubinoff, was 
fingerprinted in Budapest after the World War, and a copy 
of his fingerprints was sent to the International Distant Iden- 
tification Bureau in Copenhagen. This man was born in Mos- 
cow in 1881 ; he had previously been convicted twenty-five 
times, in Paris, Lyons, Hamburg, Berlin, and Budapest. He 
was again arrested in 1924 in Belgium, under another alias. 
The Belgian Ministry of Justice telegraphed to the Interna- 
tional Bureau at Copenhagen for information and promptly 
received word that Magindoff was an international criminal 
and that his fingerprints would be found in Budapest. Full 
information was obtained from the police authorities at Bu- 
dapest, and a dangerous crook was kept in custody. 

After this centralized bureau was in full operation, it was 
Jorgensen's plan that each year an annual catalogue or lexi- 
con was to be published, which should contain the code classi- 
fication of thousands of known international criminals, and 
which was to be distributed to all participating nations and 
departments. Thus it would make possible the immediate 
identification of recorded criminals without the necessity of 
cabling to the central bureau. 

354 Police Communication Systems 

The efforts of Jorgensen represent the first serious attempt 
in police hjstory to make criminal identification possible on 
an international scale. But his plan, with its detailed coding 
technique, secured accuracy at the expense of simplicity, ap- 
parently a necessary evil associated with any attempt to base 
a plan upon the analysis of the single fingerprint. This con- 
dition has delayed the development and adoption of single 
fingerprint systems in the United States, and has resulted in 
a disappearing interest in the plan proposed by Jorgensen. 
Had he realized that, in distant identification, absolute ac- 
curacy is not a prerequisite, and that probable identification 
is sufficient justification for holding a suspect pending com- 
parison of the actual prints, he might have reduced his system 
to simpler terms and made its acceptance more likely. 

Furthermore, through the establishment of a uniform sys- 
tem of fingerprint classification and identification, Jorgensen 
sought to bring order into a confused international situation 
where various systems were in use. Captain Golden, of the 
New York City Police Department, in a comprehensive sur- 
vey of criminal identification systems, found the Klatt sys- 
tem in use in Germany, the Jorgensen system in Denmark, 
and in Italy a system devised by a Dr. Gasti. In the Bureau 
of Identification in Brussels, classification and filing was done 
by a combination of several methods. In South American 
countries and in Spain, the Vucetich system was employed 
almost exclusively. The Parisian police used a combination 
of the Vucetich and Henry systems, and in Vienna the iden- 
tification system was based on the Windt-Kodicek idea. In 
Norway, the Daae system was in operation, and in parts of 
Germany he found the Roscher system in use. The United 
States and England had adopted the Henry system exclu- 
sively. In presenting his system, therefore, Jorgensen was 
requiring the wholesale abandonment of twenty or more sep- 
arate fingerprint classification and filing systems that had 
already been put in operation at the expense of much time, 
study, and work. Enthusiastic though convention delegates 
might be, the objection to change at home was a factor to 

Communication and Identification 355 

be reckoned with. Inertia is a powerful force and difficult 
to overcome in the inauguration of any sweeping reform or 

The Collins system. Jorgensen was followed by Charles 
Stockley Collins, who for many years was in charge of the 
Fingerprint Bureau of New Scotland Yard. Collins was 
aware of the urgent need for a uniform code system in the 
telegraphic transmission of the fingerprint formula. He de- 
veloped, in 1914, a code for this purpose, but accompanied 
it with the caution that a "recognition" made solely by means 
of a code would at the most supply a "strong suspicion" and 
should never be relied upon absolutely ; that it should be con- 
firmed subsequently by comparison of the actual fingerprint 
impressions. He held, however, that an identification by this 
method should be sufficient justification for delay of release, 
sentence, or even trial, until confirmed or rejected by such 
comparison. In 1921, he issued a revised edition of his code. 
His system showed improvement in technique in this field, 
and its comparative simplicity, in contrast to the systems 
originated by Jorgensen and others, made it more easily 
adaptable to actual practice. 

Collins essentially employed the fingerprint terminology 
set forth in Henry's epochal Classification and Uses of Finger- 
prints, dividing his code into two main parts. The first part 
dealt with types of pattern, ridge counts, and ridge tracings, 
and the other part concerned the location of ridge character- 
istics. In preparing a code classification, the prints are con- 
sidered in standard sequence : right thumb, index, middle, 
ring, and little finger ; left thumb, index, middle, ring, and 
little finger. 

Part I of the system assigned definite code letters to pat- 
tern types, and it is possible to transmit an entire fingerprint 
classification formula in two words of five letters each, the 
telegraph companies allowing five letters to each word in code 
messages. When coding loops, the standard ridge count be- 
tween the core and delta is inserted after the code letter, as, 
for example, D9 (ulnar loop with a ridge count of nine). 

356 Police Communication Systems 

When coding whorls of central pockets which classify as in- 
ner or outer, the number of ridges intervening between the 
extended ridge of the right delta and that of the left delta are 
added to the code letter, as G4 (whorl inner, with ridge 
count of four) . This count is determined in exactly the same 
manner as when ascertaining whether a whorl is inner or outer 
under the standard Henry system of classification. A tele- 
graphic identification on the basis of Part I of the Collins 
System, although not absolute, would alone, under ordinary 
circumstances, be considered sufficient ground for holding a 
suspect pending further investigation and actual comparison 
of prints. 

In Part II of the system, Collins went farther, in an en- 
deavor to supplement the actual formula by a simple method 
of coding definite ridge characteristics. Up to this point, no 
special glass or equipment is necessary, other than the ordi- 
nary fingerprint glass. For the purpose of coding peculiari- 
ties of ridge detail, he adopted a somewhat different plan of 
sectorizing the field than that employed by Jorgensen. Across 
the glass and near the center, two very fine horizontal parallel 
lines were drawn, six millimeters apart, which were joined 
together in the center by a third line perpendicular to both. 

Whereas letters are used for coding types of patterns, nu- 
merals are applied to the coding of ridge characteristics, and 
only four identifying peculiarities of fingerprint ridge for- 
mation are considered, the pure ridge, the terminating ridge, 
the bifurcation, and the eye. When coding the formula of a 
set of fingerprints, it has never been found necessary to tele- 
graph the ridge characteristics of the entire ten fingers; the 
coding of about fifteen characteristics was more than suffi- 
cient. Usually, the selection of only one of the ten individual 
prints provided more than the necessary information. The 
coding of ridge detail is always preceded by the code letter 
of the digit selected. Additional detailed instructions cover 
the position of the reading glass when coding the ridge char- 
acteristics of the individual types of patterns and there is 
also given a brief outline of the procedure to be followed. 

Communication and Identification 357 

Collins not only made a monumental contribution to the 
science of fingerprint identification, but also at the same time 
laid the foundation for a workable single fingerprint system, 
which continues to interest all students of criminal investiga- 
tion and identification. 

As explained by Collins, the system does not make possible 
absolute identification, even when the formula is supple- 
mented with coded ridge characteristics. In fact, he makes the 
entirely correct assumption that a positive identification is 
unnecessary. Telegraphic identification through the use of 
this code should possess a sufficient degree of probability in 
identification to justify the authorities in holding a suspect 
in custody until the actual prints of his fingers can be com- 
pared with those on file. 

TheWilder-Wentworth code. In 1918, Harris Hawthorne 
Wilder, Professor of Zoology in Smith College, and Bert 
Went worth, former Police Commissioner of Dover, N. H., 
compiled and published their treatise 011 the subject of Per- 
sonal Identification. Included in this comprehensive work is 
a fingerprint-communication code by which it is possible to 
transmit intelligently by telegraph or other means of com- 
munication sufficient detail for a tentative identification. The 
system, in practical trial, has proved entirely satisfactory, 
and a number of police departments have used it to great ad- 
vantage for urgent communication with the national identi- 
fication center at Washington, D. C., and with state bureaus 
of identification. In this code, the types of pattern are ar- 
ranged alphabetically, and the separate pattterns under each 
are arranged, as far as possible, with the number of ridges 
in numerical order. The code words are also in alphabetical 
arrangement, to be more readily found when translating a 

In coding under this system, the fingers are considered in 
standard sequence, as on the regular uniform fingerprint 

Et thumb Et index Et middle Et ring Et little 

Lf t thumb Lf t index Lf t middle Lf t ring Lf t little 

358 Police Communication Systems 

A typical Wilder- Wentworth code message describing a set 
of fingerprints taken from a suspect, would be as follows : 
Wordy Ladle Upright Wagon When 

Travel Arbor Celery Always Buddy 

The bureau or department receiving this message would refer 
to its code in much the same manner as to a dictionary and 
in a few minutes complete the translation and resolve the 
classification. The formula given is a comparatively unusual 
formula combination, and the average bureau would find very 
few prints bearing exactly the same classification. This for- 
mula may sometimes be considered sufficient, without supple- 
mentary information, to constitute a tentative identification. 
With the additional detailed data that is supplied by this ten- 
word message, however, a probable identification may be es- 
tablished irrespective of the size of the bureau or the number 
of fingerprints on file. 

The Wilder- Wentworth code also accommodates Bertillon 
measurements and personal description. The use of this sec- 
tion of the code is generally limited at present to the trans- 
mission of hair color, eye color, height, weight and age, and 
identifying marks, as the Bertillon system has been largely 
superseded by fingerprint identification. 

Distant identification offers important aid in tightening po- 
lice control over the freedom of movement of enemies to the 
public safety. Facilities for its use are available, both state 
and national, and are increasing steadily, particularly the 
police teletypewriter networks. The Wilder-Wentworth code 
seems to meet the requirements of the situation, at least as 
a beginning, since it successfully ignores the more intricate 
details of single-fingerprint classification systems. In view 
of the importance of this matter, the establishment of a dis- 
tant identification communication plan, including the na- 
tional and eventually the international adoption of a uniform 
code, is a project that, it seems, is quite within the province 
of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and it is 
to be hoped that summary action will soon be taken. 

Communication and Identification 359 


Closely associated with distant identification is the problem 
of the telegraphic warrant. A warrant may be defined as a 
writ issued under the hand and seal of a magistrate or other 
person empowered by statute to issue warrants, authorizing 
an officer to arrest the offender involved. Fundamentally, the 
so-called telegraphic warrant, or request for arrest by tele- 
gram or other means of communication, does not meet these 
requirements, since it is essentially a reference to the original 
document, and is not primarily endowed with the arresting 

Since the criminal of today may cross county, state, and 
even international bundary lines as easily as the law-abiding 
citizen, and does so, the status and validity of the telegraphic 
request for the arrest of an offender or fugitive are of more 
than ordinary significance. If the arrest of a fugitive criminal 
were to depend on the efforts of an officer with a warrant trail- 
ing him from one jurisdiction to another, few such fugitives 
would be brought to justice. Although some cases may toler- 
ate the delay incident to forwarding the original warrant by 
mail, more frequently than not time is the decisive factor and 
it is then that the telegraphic warrant becomes an effective 
instrument in the hands of the police. 

A recent survey 4 disclosed that, in a number of states, stat- 
utes have been enacted recognizing the telegraphic warrant 
as a legal instrument, and in others its validity is in effect 
denied. The matter has been wholly neglected in some states, 
where neither statutes nor judicial decisions are on record 
concerning the rights of a peace officer when acting upon au- 
thority derived from such requests. Judicial decisions are as 
various as the states in which they have been rendered, as 
are also the statutes which have thus far been enacted. A num- 
ber of important decisions have been handed down which di- 
rectly empower the police officer to act upon telegraphic ad- 

4 This survey was based on replies to direct inquiries addressed to the 
attorney general in each state. 

360 Police Communication Systems 

vice. 5 However, it has been held by some courts that an arrest 
made upon the authority of a telegram is wholly at the peril 
of the officer making it, and that a telegram affords 110 reason- 
able ground to believe that the person named in the telegram 
is guilty of the offense or that he intended to commit any of- 
fense which would justify his arrest. 

Officers of the law are responsible in every jurisdiction for 
any unnecessary infringement of the rights and privileges of 
another person. If an officer, through negligence or misinfor- 
mation contained in a telegram or other communication, ar- 
rests and detains any person not guilty of any offense, he is 
personally liable for the wrongful act. 

The paradoxical circumstances surrounding the telegraphic 
warrant have been a source of inconvenience and embarrass- 
ment to police officers for many years, and the ends of justice 
have often been defeated for lack of authority to act. There 
is need for a uniform definition by the various states of the 
validity of this type of warrant. In the present confusion, 
forty-eight different interpretations may glorify the worn- 
out theory of states' rights, but they may also tie the hands 
of that body of men to whom the communities in forty-eight 
states must look for police protection. 

Telegraphic advice within a state would concern that state 
alone, but the escape and migration of criminals is frequently 
interstate in character and therefore a fit subject for Fed- 
eral regulation. Bringing this phase of the problem under the 
jurisdiction of the Federal government would result in the 
adoption of uniform procedure covering not only interstate 
arrest by wire, but extradition procedure as well. Recent 
events seem to reveal a definite trend in that direction. 

Despite present legal barriers, sound public policy de- 
mands that a fugitive from justice be arrested immediately 

5 Brown vs. State, 62 New Jersey Law, page 695 ; State vs. Sage, 99 
New Jersey Law, at 236 ; Cabell vs. Arnold, 86 Texas 102, 23, S. W. 
645, 22 L. E. A. 87; Burton vs. New York Central & Hudson River Rail- 
road (1911) (this refers to warrant dispatched by teletypewriter), 
147 App. Div. 557, New York; Koscielski vs. State, 199 Indiana 546, 
158, N. E. 902 ; Hangar vs. State, 199 Indiana. 

Communication and Identification 361 

upon receipt of official information from the place in which 
the offense was committed, and that the prisoner be held a 
reasonable time until a formal demand may be made for ex- 
tradition. A fugitive, as here contemplated, is one who, hav- 
ing committed an offense contrary to the law of a state, takes 
refuge in another jurisdiction. 

Peace officers are generally inclined to honor a telegraphic 
request from an outside department for the arrest of a fugi- 
tive, even though there may be no legal sanction for so doing. 
Fortunately, there has been little or no abuse of this unwrit- 
ten understanding and there has been built up among police 
departments a mutual confidence, professional in nature, 
which is conducive to cooperation in such cases. 

Some care should be exercised in framing a telegram for 
the arrest of a person at a distant point. Brevity should not 
be achieved at the expense of accuracy and completeness of 
information. The message should contain, besides informa- 
tion concerning the offender's probable whereabouts, the fol- 
lowing data : 

(1) Offender's name and aliases, if known. 

(2) Description: hair color, eye color, height, weight, age, and any 
special marks of identification such as scars, tattoo marks, limp, or 
speech defects. 

(3) Nature of the crime for which the offender is wanted. 

(4) Fingerprint classification, if known. 

(5) If the fugitive is known to be a desperate character, the arresting 
officers are entitled to receive that information. 

Such messages should always be followed by a confirming air- 
mail letter, giving full and complete particulars. Upon being 
informed that the prisoner is under arrest, the inquiring de- 
partment should lose no time in sending an officer with the 
proper legal instruments for the return of the accused to the 
jurisdiction where he is wanted. 



WE HAVE CONSIDERED the separate facilities that enter into 
a communication system. Let us now consider, in a 
broader perspective, three modern communication systems as 
complete administrative units. Two of the systems discussed 
represent two types of police organization the large metro- 
politan area where administration is decentralized, and the 
city of smaller population and area where the police activi- 
ties are centralized. The third system described is a projected 
plan of communication for the small community. 


Before the Administration, the Central Detective Division, 
and the Central Record Division of the Police Department 
were moved to the City Hall, the switchboard of the police 
department was in the Central Police Station on First Street. 
It was served by telephone number Michigan - , and 
operated by girls who monitored each incoming call and 
transferred it to the department concerned. Under this ar- 
rangement it was necessary for the calling citizen to repeat 
the information twice and sometimes of tener, as his call was 
transferred from one person to another. The switchboard was 
connected by lines with the City Hall switchboard, and the 
lines were used for interdepartmental business calls between 
personnel of the City Hall and the Police Department. 

When the decision was made to move these three divisions 
(formerly called bureaus) of the Police Department to the 
City Hall, the matter of telephone service, space for the 
switchboard, and so forth became important. The City Hall, 
when built, was so arranged that one dial-type telephone ex- 
change or switchboard sufficed for the telephone needs of all 

[ 362 ] 

The Modern System 363 

the city departments in the building 1 , and ample space for 
expansion had been allocated near this switchboard. 

At first, a separate switchboard for the Police Department 
in its own quarters was thought necessary, but this involved 
a problem in the allocation of floor space and rather large ex- 
pense in construction changes. 

At this point in the planning, the telephone company engi- 
neers were requested to submit plans showing how best to 
move the Police Department telephone exchange, at the least 
cost for removal and installation and also for construction 
changes. After several conferences with the police, the fol- 
lowing plan was accepted and the system installed. 

(1) An addition to the City Hall exchange made possible 
the police use of the dial-type switchboard serving the City 
Hall, and the expense for the alteration was very much less 
than would have been incurred had a separate switchboard 
been installed. 

(2) There were installed in the Police Department, at the 
City Hall, two double-faced switchboards (8 operator posi- 
tions), much the same as those used by department stores for 
receiving orders. Locally, these are called "complaint tur- 
rets" or "complaint boards," and are used only for receiving 
requests, complaints, and information from citizens. Each 
switchboard requires from one to four operators, depending 
upon the volume of traffic. The apparatus is operated from 
two sides, facing each other, and there are two operators on 
each side when calls are frequent. A call can be shifted from 
one side to the other if necessary. The switchboards can be 
connected directly with outside lines for receiving complaints 
or information, or with the office lines for transferring* calls, 
and they are so arranged that any operator can answer and 
call any police division or substation directly. 

The telephone central lines of "Michigan" are connected 
directly with these complaint boards, enabling citizens call- 
ing "Michigan" to reach the Police Department without the 
services of an intermediary operator. The switchboards are 
operated by policemen instead of telephone operators. 
























o "^w 

O ; 

g j 







O H 



















The Modern System 365 

If the call is for help or advice, usually the advice is given 
or the help sent by the switchboard policeman receiving the 
call. Occasionally, when the advice sought is too complicated, 
the complaint-board operator will transfer the call to that 
branch of the Detective Division which handles the particu- 
lar kind of crime involved. The remote-control apparatus of 
the radio station is in the same room with the complaint 
board, and all calls requiring the broadcasting of informa- 
tion are dispatched immediately by the operators. 

(3) All telephones in the Police Department headquarters, 
as well as those of the fifteen police divisions or stations scat- 
tered throughout the city, are connected directly to the City 

Hall dial switchboard served by Michigan . This enables 

the Police Department, the divisional headquarters or sta- 
tions, and the City Hall in general, to intercommunicate 
directly by dial telephone. They also may obtain city connec- 
tions by dialing directly into the telephone company's main 

(4) All routine and personnel calls for the Police Depart- 
ment are received over the Michigan - - lines at the City 
Hall dial switchboard, where they are handled by girl oper- 
ators. This relieves the police operators on the switchboards 
previously mentioned from routine switching or service. 

Michigan is not listed in the telephone directory as a 
police telephone number, but all officers and patrolmen are 
specifically instructed to use this number on routine or per- 
son-to-person calls. Were the citizens to use this number in 
calling the police, their emergency calls would often be de- 

(5) As it was thought probable that some routine police 
calls would be received over the emergency line, Michigan 

- (different from the Michigan mentioned above), 

the telephone company devised a means for their rapid trans- 
fer to the City Hall switchboard. By pressing a key, the police 
operator on the complaint board transfers the call. He then 
disconnects immediately, as the call requires no further at- 
tention by him. 

366 Police Communication Systems 

(6) In order to make possible the most effective handling 
of the more important emergency calls (for example, those 
relating to homicides and robberies) , special devices were in- 
stalled by the telephone company. When the call is received, 
the police operator on the complaint board depresses a key 
which sounds the alarm bell and at the same time connects 
him with a police stenographer in the teletype room ; in this 
way a record of the details of the case is made immediately. 
The complaint-board operator at once broadcasts a descrip- 
tion of the crime over the police radio, and at the same time 
the police stenographer who took the report broadcasts the 
information over teletypewriters to all divisional headquar- 
ters. Thereafter, the patrolmen in radio-patrol automobiles 
who may require more information than they were able to 
record, call their own divisional headquarters from the police 
telephone boxes to ask that the teletype report be read to 
them, thereby relieving congestion in the Central Complaint 

The stenographer's telephone is equipped with an amplifier 
so that several people may listen to the conversation. In case 
of robbery, the police operator on the switchboard, besides 
pressing the button for the stenographer, may also press a 
control which rings a bell and connects a telephone (equipped 
with receiver only) in the Business Office, and in the Robbery 
and Homicide Bureaus, where the officer in charge may listen 
to the details of the call but cannot in any way interrupt the 
conversation. This procedure enables three or more persons 
concerned to hear the report of the crime; and further, the 
possibility of human error is greatly reduced. 

(7) The key arrangement controlling the emergency calls 
and the connections to stenographers and bureau heads is 
such that when one switchboard operator has established a 
connection with the stenographer, others are unable to make 
this connection, and interference is eliminated. 

The Modern System 367 


The office of the Chief of Police is provided with key boxes 
which enable him or his secretary to talk or hold a conversa- 
tion on any one of six lines. Furthermore, there is installed 
in his private office a board with twenty push buttons which 
give him intercommunicating and conference-calling tele- 
phone service with the Assistant Chiefs and the various 
heads of divisions. With but one telephone instrument upon 
the desk of the Chief of Police, this ability to talk on either 
of the telephone systems named is accomplished in the fol- 
lowing manner. 

(1) Six lines from the City Hall switchboard and the tele- 
phone company's central exchange are brought to the key 
box in the Chief's private office, and then extended to the 
office of his secretary. 

(2) When a call arrives on any of these lines, a white lamp 
burns in both offices and a buzzer operates in the secretary's 
office. When anyone answers for example, the secretary 
the white light in both offices goes out and the buzzer stops 
sounding. Answering is made possible by turning the switch 
controlling the particular line to be used. When the line is in 
use and the white light is out, a green lamp indicating "line 
busy" burns in both offices. 

(3) The secretary may transfer any call to the Chief, and 
in the event of a second call the secretary, by observing the 
green lamp, knows whether or not the Chief has finished his 
conversation occasioned by the first call, or if he is otherwise 
engaged on the telephone. This saves him the annoyance of 
a second call when he is already engaged in telephoning. 

(4) The key box in the Chief's office is so arranged, also, 
that when all the keys are in a normal or holding position 
the Chief may connect his telephone directly with any one 
of the twenty intercommunicating telephones by pushing one 
of the twenty buttons on the box. At the same time, a signal 
lamp burns at the secretary's desk, indicating that the Chief 
is engaged on the intercommunicating telephone. 

368 Police Communication Systems 

(5) The first operation of the button establishes the con- 
nection between the Chief and the division desired, and 
causes the bell at the division to ring. Bach subsequent oper- 
ation of the push button causes the bell at the called station 
to ring again. 

(6) For conference purposes, as many as ten push buttons 
may be operated consecutively, thus connecting ten persons 
with the Chief. Connections thus established are broken when 
the Chief replaces the receiver on the stand. 

(7) Divisions connected with the intercommunicating sys- 
tem are unable to connect with the Chief's telephone, all 
connections being controlled entirely by him. Any combina- 
tion of divisions may be set up by operating various buttons, 
and released by replacing the receiver. 

An intercommunicating system as outlined for the Chief 
of Police is also installed for the Assistant Chief, the Deputy 
Chief of Personnel and Equipment, and the Chief of Detec- 
tives. Each of these systems connects with the division or 
bureau heads with whom the particular officer most fre- 
quently desires to communicate. 


The radio equipment consists of one 500- watt De Forest radio- 
phone transmitter, operating on a frequency of 1712 kilo- 
cycles. The Police Department has 80 Sparton automobile 
receiving sets. In each of the fifteen police divisions into 
which the city of Los Angeles is organized, and in several of 
the special bureaus at headquarters, a station receiver is in- 
stalled. In each of the territorial divisions, the loud-speakers 
are attached and installed in the detectives' quarters. The 
walls of the transmitter room have been deadened by the 
use of a material known as "masonite," which creates ideal 
acoustical conditions for transmitting. 

When the system of radio communication was first set in 
operation, the city was divided into radio patrol districts, 
and a street index was provided which would enable the 
operator to determine in fifteen or twenty seconds the radio 

The Modern System 369 

patrol district in which any street and number is situated. 
(As there are more than 7500 streets in Los Angeles, it re- 
quired the work of five persons for a month to trace and type- 
write all the street names and numbers.) It is impracticable 
to depend upon the knowledge of any person to direct the 
automobiles in the city without such an index. With it, a 
stranger in Los Angeles could direct the patrol cars as well 
as any one familiar with the city. 

The fifteen territorial police divisions in Los Angeles have 
definite numbers. Central Division is No. 1, and has six radio 
patrol districts numbered 11 to 16. The first digit is the num- 
ber of the division, and the second is the number of the radio 
patrol post or district. This system is applied throughout the 
fifteen divisions, the fifteenth having four radio patrol dis- 
tricts, numbered 151, 152, 153, 154. In the divisions bearing 
numbers 10 to 15, the first two digits signify the division 
number and the third digit the radio patrol district. 

Each radio patrol district is divided into two sections, the 
second section being designated by the letter W ; for example, 
District 11, Sections 11 and 11 W. If the call originates in the 
W section, the automobile patrolling that district is called 
by using the number 11 W. This indicates to the men in the 
automobile that the street will be found in the W section of 
their district, and in referring to their map, if they are not 
familiar with the street, they know that they must look in 
the section named. An added advantage of the divided dis- 
tricts is that, if increased police activity is required in a cer- 
tain division, additional automobiles may be assigned to the 
two sections independently, and called separately, through 
the independent use of the numbers 11 and 11 W. Each auto- 
mobile assumes the number of the district to which it is 
assigned for patrol duty. 

By the use of this system each division commander can 
determine where any automobile in his division has been dis- 
patched to take care of some police matter. If in his opinion 
it is a matter of great importance, he can dispatch the divi- 
sional emergency automobile to ensure that the call is an- 

370 Police Communication Systems 

swered even if the message was not received by the men in the 
radio patrol automobile designated. By this system, when an 
automobile is sent on a call, the number of the division is 
automatically included in the broadcast. 

Each message is broadcast once from the remote-control 
room, which is adjacent to the telephone complaint switch- 
board and the teletype room. The message is written and 
broadcast again by the operators in the radio station, which 
is in an isolated position in Elysian Park. This means that 
the entire message is given twice to the patrol cars. The repe- 
tition is practiced in order to ensure the receipt of messages. 
If during the first broadcast the automobile should be passing 
through a particularly noisy area, the patrolmen are in- 
structed to turn into a side street away from power lines and 
other sources of interference, and listen for the second broad- 
cast. The actual reception of broadcast messages has been 
approximately 99 per cent. 

During the day watch, which is between 10:00 A.M. and 
6 :00 P.M., there are two men in each automobile, and it is 
assumed that both of these men leave the automobile to in- 
vestigate any matter broadcast to them. For this reason, after 
a message has been sent to any car, that car is recorded as out 
of service until the men notify headquarters that they are 
ready for more business. If within this interval another call 
for help originates in the same district, the patrol car from 
an adjoining district is assigned to the duty indicated. 

During the night watch, between 6 :00 P.M. and 2 :00 A.M., 
there were originally three men in each automobile, and one 
of them was instructed to remain with the automobile at all 
times. Only two men are assigned to each night-patrol car 
at the present time, owing to a shortage in personnel. The 
messages are broadcast to each automobile in the order in 
which they are received, and the cases are investigated by 
the patrolmen in the same rotation, or in accordance with 
the importance of the message. 

The complaint-switchboard room is equipped with a large 
map showing all the radio patrol districts. Each radio patrol 

The Modern System 371 

car is equipped with a duplicate map on curtain rollers, at- 
tached'to the ceiling of the car. 

When a call is received by a policeman on the complaint 
switchboard, he writes the necessary data on a form provided 
for the purpose. The form is then passed to the index clerk, 
who searches the street index and finds the number of the 
district containing the address shown on the form. He writes 
the number in the place designated on the form and then con- 
sults his work sheet to learn whether or not the radio patrol 
car assigned to that district is in service. If the automobile is 
on a call and thus "out of service," he writes the number of 
the nearest available car in the space for "Squad Car No. ." 
He then passes the form to the radio dispatcher, who broad- 
casts the message, stamps the time on the form, and passes it 
through a wicket to the disposition clerk. The disposition clerk 
places the form in a compartment having the same number 
as the automobile to which the message was given. 

Upon completion of the investigation, the patrolmen call 
the disposition clerk on the telephone and give him the num- 
ber of their automobile and a report of what they have done. 
He takes the form from its compartment and records on it 
their report of the time elapsed between receipt of the call 
and arrival at the place to which they were sent, and of the 
action taken by them. This action is noted very briefly ; for 
example : "Disturbance quieted" ; "One misdemeanor arrest" ; 
"Report made," etc. 

The main reason for requiring these reports of the disposi- 
tion of cases is to be certain that the call has been answered 
and the appropriate action taken. If, after a reasonable time, 
the patrolmen do not report action taken, they are called on 
the air and asked to report by telephone. If they report that 
they did not receive the original message by radio, it is given 
them by telephone ; but the necessity for this seldom occurs. 
Major calls are telephoned also to division detectives, who 
likewise respond, thus ensuring action if the radio call is not 
received by the assigned radio patrol car. 

In accordance with the requirements of the Federal Com- 

372 Police Communication Systems 

munications Commission, a radio log is maintained, and when 
the disposition record is received, the information is entered 
as follows : the time the call was dispatched ; the number of 
the automobile sent ; the place to which it was sent ; the rea- 
son for sending it ; the time used up between receipt of call 
and arrival at destination, and the action taken. 

Each radio patrol automobile is equipped with a large 
loose-leaf book in which are copies of the emergency report 
form, a copy of which is shown on page 373. By use of this 
form, the recording of a description is reduced almost to the 
brevity of shorthand. The officers at the complaint switch- 
board also use it in taking a description over the telephone, 
and when the information is broadcast the routine order of 
the form is followed, so that the patrolmen in the cars can 
enter the description point by point on the form in a regular 

Copies of all teletype messages with reference to crimes 
committed, automobiles stolen, persons missing, and so forth, 
are delivered to the radio broadcaster immediately upon be- 
ing received by teletype. He broadcasts them to all patrolmen 
in radio-equipped patrol cars, and in this manner the force 
is kept informed of all police news of general interest. 

The radio station has an emergency power unit. This is 
necessary because the radio has become an essential part of 
the communication system. However, in anticipation of the 
transmitter's being shut down for emergency repairs at some 
time, all the radio patrol cars in the various districts are re- 
quired to call their divisional station at a stipulated time each 
hour. By this method, the division has an automobile at its 
disposal at least every fifteen minutes. Were radio communi- 
cation interrupted, the calls received at the central complaint 
switchboard would be relayed to the divisions by telephone 
or teletype and transmitted to the patrolmen in the districts 
when they make their hourly telephone calls to their respec- 
tive division headquarters. 

A light delivery automobile has been equipped with a radio 
and all the necessary parts and testing devices for servicing 

The Modern System 




Date , 193 

Time: m. 

Broadcast No. 

Location Name of Victim 

Xo. of Bandits Name of Concern 

CAR USED: YES D No D Make: Unknown D License Unknown D 

Type Color Remarks 

Direction Bandit (s) Went 


(1) Nativity and Smooth Shaven D 
Complexion Age Ht Wt Hair Eyes 

Mustache D 

Bareheaded Q Days' Growth 

Hat D Cap D O'Coat D Suit Coat Pants 

Color Color Color Color Color 

Gun B.S. D N.P. D Automatic D Revolver D Caliber... 

(2) Nativity and Smooth Shaven D 
Complexion Age Ht Wt Hair Eyes 

Mustache Q 

Bareheaded D Days' Growth 

Hat D Cap D O'Coat D Suit Coat Pants 

Color Color.. Color Color Color 

Gun B.S. D N.P. D Automatic D Revolver D Caliber 

(3) Nativity and Smooth Shaven D 
Complexion Age... Ht... Wt Hair Eyes 

Mustache D 

Bareheaded G Days' Growth 

Hat D Cap D O'Coat D Suit Coat Pants 

Color Color Color Color Color 

Gun -B.S. D N.P. D Automatic D Revolver D Caliber 

Amount Secured $ 

Telephone: (Business) (Residence) 

Home Address: 

(If held up on street) 


Broadcast to: Teletyped to : Telephoned to : Dispatcher: 

374 Police Communication Systems 

radio receiving sets. When the patrolmen in any automobile 
have radio trouble, they call the complaint switchboard and 
the service man is notified by radio to go immediately to the 
district calling and take the action necessary to put the equip- 
ment back in use. 

Service men are required, at the termination of each tour 
of duty, to give the Communication Division a record of bat- 
teries and tubes replaced and of all repairs made. This infor- 
mation is tabulated in order to show the exact annual expense 
of maintaining each receiving set in use and thus provide 
data upon which to base the budget request for the next suc- 
ceeding year. 


The present police teletypewriter system is composed of 42 
machines as follows : 38 Model 12 Morkrum-Kleinschmidt 
page printers, 2 Teletypewriter Corporation Model 14 tape 
printers, and 2 Model 12 Morkrum-Kleinschmidt (Bell Sys- 
tem) page printers. Thirty-eight of these machines are owned 
and maintained by the city, and represent an investment of 
approximately $95,000. The distribution of the 38 city-owned 
and the 4 privately-owned machines is as follows : 

28 sending and receiving machines, two in each of 13 divisions, and 
two at the Central Eecord Division. 

3 combination sending and receiving machines, Electrician's Shop, 
City Hall. 

2 receiving-only machines, one at Wilmington and one at North Holly- 
wood, these points being teletypewriter substations. 

2 broadcasting machines, Communication Division of Police Depart- 
ment, City Hall. 

2 intercommunicating machines at Communication Division. 

2 intercommunicating machines for state-wide system, Communication 
Division at City Hall, leased by the State of California from the Bell 
Telephone Company and used for state-wide communication purposes, 
being connected with 18 cities and strategic border points in California, 
in addition to a connection to Eeno, Nevada. 

2 tape printers, Communication Division, City Hall ; one is owned by 
the Western Union Telegraph Company, and the other by the Postal 
Telegraph Company, both machines being used for sending or receiving 
commercial telegraph messages. 

The Modern System 375 

1 intercommunicating machine at Communication Division, City Hall, 
connected with the Sheriff's Department and his nine substations in Los 
Angeles County. 

As noted in the list, the nine machines last mentioned are 
placed at present in spaced position in the Communication 
Division of the Police Department. Through this depart- 
mental system, consisting of two broadcasting and two inter- 
communicating machines, two switchboards, a meter board, 
and two generators (one to furnish direct current, the other 
as an auxiliary), it is possible to contact by all machines a 
total of forty-eight points. A few examples of the system's 
flexibility are brought out below : 

Four divisions can intercommunicate simultaneously while a fifth is 
sending in a report for broadcasting or other purposes, and at the same 
time a general teletyped broadcast can be dispatched by the police tele- 
type operator to all police divisions and substations. 

Four divisions can transmit reports to Police Headquarters simulta- 
neously, two on the intercommunicating machines and two on the broad- 
casting machines, the latter being converted into receiving machines by 
the use of monitor cord plugs. 

Messages can be acknowledged in writing, or by means of a flashback 
arrangement on the intercommunicating switchboard. 

Generators can be changed over, line trouble traced, and voltage in- 
creased or decreased by manipulation of switches, cam keys, and rheo- 
stats on the meter board. 

Individual line readings for voltage and amperage can be taken and 
fuses replaced on both switchboards, thus reducing trouble calls for the 
repairman to a minimum. 

The state-wide intercommunicating teletypewriters are in 
operation 16 hours daily, each machine running about 8 hours 
a day. Over these machines are received and dispatched the 
messages, destined to any one point or to all points, formerly 
handled by telegraph, telephone, or air mail. Answers to mes- 
sages sent to the State Capitol at Sacramento, regarding mo- 
tor-vehicle registration data, and so on, have been received in 
from three to ten minutes. On occasion, other points have an- 
swered messages immediately. 

Outgoing state teletype messages originate either at Police 
Headquarters or at a police divisional station. If at headquar- 

376 Police Communication Systems 

ters, the detail handling them prepares the message in sep- 
tuplicate and delivers the seven copies to the Business Office 
for approval. After receiving this approval, the seven copies 
are sent to the teletypewriter room for dispatching. As soon 
as the operator receives it he gives it a number, contacts the 
destination point, and dispatches the message. Two copies of 
the numbered message are returned to the detail handling the 
matter and three to the Business Office, one copy is forwarded 
to the Record Division, and the remaining copy is filed in the 
teletype room. 

If the message originates at one of the territorial Divisions, 
it is teletyped to the Communication Division. A messenger 
takes it to the Business Office, where seven copies are pre- 
pared and the routine just described is followed. 

The teletype machines in the Communication Division are 
equipped with "ditto" or duplicating ribbons. Upon receipt 
of an incoming state-wide message which is in answer to a 
message sent by the Department, eight copies are made on the 
"ditto" machine and all are delivered to the Business Office, 
where they are stamped with the time, date, and police unit 
which the message concerns. Three of the copies are given to 
the messenger for delivery to the bureau or detail waiting for 
the answer, two of these are kept by such bureau or detail, and 
the third, bearing the signature of the detail commander, is 
returned to the Business Office. A fourth copy is returned 
from the Business Office to the teletype room, this copy bear- 
ing signed acknowledgment of its receipt. After clearing the 
incoming message file in the teletype room, this copy is for- 
warded to the Record Division. 

Upon receipt of incoming state-wide messages addressed 
to "All Points," the messages are edited, and if they do not 
contain specific matter calling for assignment, they are given 
a broadcast number and immediately dispatched over the 
Department's teletype system. A copy is given to the Radio 
Room for broadcast to radio patrol automobiles. Copies made 
on the "ditto" machine are distributed to all quarters' bu- 
reaus. Frequently, all persons concerned are in receipt of an 

The Modern System 377 

"All Points Bulletin" five minutes after its reception in the 
teletype room. 

Simplex tape printers. All Police Department telegrams, 
incoming and outgoing, are handled on the tape printers. 
These printers have been installed by the Western Union and 
Postal Telegraph companies and are connected with their re- 
spective main offices. All outgoing telegrams are prepared by 
the police branch handling the matter and are sent to the 
Business Office for approval and recording. The approved 
copy is delivered to the teletype room for dispatching. 

Recently the telegraph companies have begun a "timed wire 
service," through which it is possible to contact, over the tape 
printers, police departments throughout the United States 
and dispatch messages to them direct. This is only a one-way 
service, however ; its chief advantage is a saving in the cost of 
very lengthy telegrams. 

Accessory telephones. By means of a locking device, calls 
involving major crimes received on the complaint switch- 
board are heard simultaneously by the Business Office, the 
Homicide and Robbery Bureaus, and the teletype room. 
While the complaint-board operator is asking for and record- 
ing on Form 392 or 391 (see pp. 364 and 373) all pertinent 
information necessary in order to dispatch the radio patrol 
automobiles, these offices listen in and take such action as 
comes within their respective spheres. The teletype operator, 
also listening in, records the call on Form 392 or 391, and dis- 
patches it over the teletype system to all concerned. 

The apparatus in the teletype room that is used for such 
calls consists of a telephone headpiece, an automatic gong, 
and an amplifying device, all installed by the telephone com- 
pany. The amplifier controls the tone and volume of the com- 
plainant's voice, and by manipulation of a control dial the 
voice may be regulated from "ordinary" to "loud" or any 
intervening gradation. 

All messages dispatched over the interdepartmental tele- 
type system are received in written form from headquarters 
bureaus, the complaint switchboard, or one of the fifteen ter- 

378 Police Communication Systems 

ritorial divisions, by way of the intercommunicating machine. 
Exceptions to this rule include calls received through the 
complaint switchboard or the City Hall central switchboard 
concerning missing juveniles or adults, together with emer- 
gency case reports and the supplements thereto. Frequently, 
radio patrolmen who have responded to an emergency call are 
able to supplement the original report with additional infor- 
mation after further interrogating the complainant. They 
telephone the teletype operator direct and dictate the addi- 
tional information, which is promptly teletyped as a supple- 
ment to the original broadcast. 

Miscellaneous items. The interdepartmental broadcasting 
teletypewriters are equipped with rolls of duplicating tele- 
type paper, and the duplicate copy of every message broad- 
cast is given to the radio operator, who broadcasts or files the 
message, depending upon the nature of its contents. The origi- 
nal message is run on the "ditto" machine, a sufficient number 
of copies being made to ensure proper distribution to all con- 

At present only about one-fifth of the messages numbered 
by the Division of Records are obtained over the teletype sys- 
tem. Additional equipment has been purchased and soon will 
be installed. It is then planned to handle all the numbers of 
the Division of Records by teletype, the object being to elimi- 
nate the many errors occurring as a result of transmitting 
messages over telephones. All booking of arrested persons is 
handled by teletype, the arresting Division contacting the 
Central Booking Office over teletype lines, giving the booking 
number, name of person arrested, age, descent, offense, time 
and location of arrest, and the name and number of the officer 
making the arrest. Subpoenas and warrant recalls are dis- 
patched by teletype. 

Two additional sets of relays and two intercommunicating 
machines are to be installed soon in the teletype room to pro- 
vide greater flexibility, eliminate delay, and teletype all Divi- 
sional record reports. 

Adjacent cities, such as Santa Monica, Culver City, Bev- 

The Modern System 379 

erly Hills, Glendale, and others, are now receiving the bene- 
fit of the Los Angeles police radio broadcasting facilities. 
Some of these cities already have appropriated money for the 
installation of teletypewriters, but have not decided whether 
to connect with the Sheriff's Office or with the Police Depart- 
ment. Inasmuch as their radio patrol cars will be dispatched 
by the Los Angeles Police Department radio operator, it seems 
logical that they should be wired to the Police Department 
system, and, as in other cities, teletype their dispatch requests 
instead of telephoning them. If this connection is made, du- 
plicate teletype rolls would be used, and after an outside dis- 
patch was received, it would be a matter of only a few seconds 
until the original copy was delivered to the radio operator for 


Each of the fifteen territorial Police Divisions in Los Angeles 
is equipped with its own police station and complete police 
signal and telephone system. It is at this point that communi- 
cation facilities are first decentralized. Each of the signal and 
telephone systems, except as noted below, consists of the sta- 
tion reception and dispatching equipment, boxes, and the 
necessary overhead and underground lines. 

The police station equipment consists of a motor generator 
set (110-volt alternating current; 75-volt direct current), 
with a 48-volt storage battery floating on the generator, a 
charging and distributing switchboard, a desk with a private 
branch exchange, a register, and a reel. Police telephone 
boxes, of which there are 500, consist of an outer shell of cast 
iron or aluminum alloy, with an inner door of like material 
recessed to hold a Western Electric No. 1001-A hand set with 
grounded frame on a switch hook. On the inside of the inner 
door is a plain make-and-break signal mechanism, adjusted 
for one-pull telephone hook-switch, ringer, door-operated 
switch, and the necessary terminal blocks, condensers, induc- 
tion coil, and other associated equipment. 

All overhead lines consist of two No. 12 hard-drawn, triple- 
braid, weatherproof copper conductors carried on standard 

380 Police Communication Systems 

crossarms on the poles of the various public utilities wherever 
possible, and suitably transposed. Underground lines consist 
of a pair of No. 19 conductors in lead-covered, paper-insu- 
lated, filled cables in telephone company ducts. The junction 
of underground to overhead lines is made through vacuum- 
type lightning arresters and the Western Union type 2500- 
volt, 5-ampere fuses. The lines enter Police Division stations 
in a cable in an underground conduit and terminate on Cook 
terminals with 3-ampere, 2000-volt fuses, heat coils, and car- 
bon-block lightning arresters. 

Street telephone boxes are placed at the intersection of the 
boundary lines of the patrol beats. When the boxes are 011 
boundary lines between two or more Divisions, they are 
equipped with a rotary switch, the manipulation of which 
connects the box with the Division to which the patrolman 
wishes to report. These boxes are ordinarily used in the fol- 
lowing manner. Each patrolman reports from a box every 
hour by opening the box and pulling a lever which causes the 
recording of the box number at the telephone switchboard of 
his Division and indicates that someone is calling from that 
box. The patrolman gives his name and the box number to the 
Divisional operator, and if there are instructions for him, the 
operator gives them at this time. If there are no instructions, 
the patrolman replaces the hand set and the operator causes 
the bell in the box to ring twice to indicate that the report has 
been received. 

The beat telephone system is used by patrolmen in making 
reports to their Division about the disposition of cases as- 
signed to them by radio broadcasts to patrol cars. The Divi- 
sional operator in turn reports to the disposition clerk at the 
Communication Division in Central Headquarters. It is abso- 
lutely essential that the Communication Division receive the 
disposition report, for otherwise it would have no knowledge 
that the call had been answered. The disposition report also 
serves the purpose of showing that the automobile reporting 
is available for further service. 

The Modern System 381 


The 0. B. McClintock Company, of Minneapolis, Minn., has 
installed and maintains a Police Call Annunciator Alarm 
System in the complaint switchboard room of the Los Angeles 
Police Department. The system is designed primarily for the 
use of banks and large mercantile establishments as a means 
of protection against criminal attack. A small fee is paid by 
the subscriber to the McClintock Company for installation 
and maintenance, and the connecting wires employed are 
leased from the telephone company at a nominal cost. 

The McClintock Company's experts install and maintain 
the equipment in proper working condition both at the Police 
Department and at the subscriber's business location. The 
subscriber has means of testing the condition of the connect- 
ing wires without operating his unit of the system at the cen- 
tral switchboard, and if outgoing wires are tampered with 
he is notified immediately by the local trouble bell. The sub- 
scriber's equipment consists of the control cabinet and the 
signaling stations. Alarm-exciting devices used are the Mc- 
Clintock pinch-type holdup buttons, the mercury-ring foot- 
rail, and other cleverly designed devices placed at strategic 
points in the subscriber's place of business, so that in the event 
of robbery or other trouble he may signal the Police Depart- 
ment with very little effort. If the subscriber is equipped with 
a local burglar alarm, arrangement is made for its connec- 
tion to the silent alarm system and it is wired direct to Head- 

Operators are on duty twenty-four hours a day at the com- 
plaint switchboard at Central Headquarters, and on receiv- 
ing a signal from the Police Call Annunciator, broadcast it 
by radio to the patrol cars. In addition, signals received are 
also transmitted to the flying squadron of the Detective Bu- 
reau of the Central Division, or to the emergency automobiles 
of other Divisions. This ensures that the call is answered. 

The numbers on the McClintock Police Call Annunciator 
form an index to the locations of the subscribers, a list of 

382 Police Communication Systems 

which is kept for reference under a glass on the complaint 
switchboard. This index also shows the radio patrol car as- 
signed to a district containing a specific address, which elimi- 
nates the necessity of referring to the city-wide index. In 
the regular course of business, an alarm coming in over the 
McClintock system would be relayed to a car in the vicinity 
of the premises attacked within about 10 seconds after its 


Berkeley, California, is a city of 86,000 people situated on 
the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay. It is but one of many 
cities in the populous East Bay metropolitan area, which ex- 
tends over the two counties of Alameda and Contra Costa. 
The police problem of the city of Berkeley is not an individual 
one, for on the south the boundary of the city coincides with 
that of the cities of Oakland, Calif. (300,000 population) and 
Emeryville (2,400 population), and on the north, Berkeley 
merges into the smaller cities of Albany and El Cerrito. So 
closely are the cities of the East Bay area nested together that 
their boundaries are merely political, and a stranger would 
be unable to determine when he left one city and entered an- 
other. Moreover, the whole metropolitan area is tied together 
by a highly developed system of lateral and arterial high- 
ways, many of the main thoroughfares passing through from 
six to ten adjacent communities. It is thus apparent that re- 
ciprocal responsibility in public-safety affairs is vested to an 
unusual degree in all the municipal and governmental agen- 
cies in this area. 

The topography of the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay 
is such that the police, aided by adequate communication, 
have an excellent opportunity to apprehend escaping crimi- 
nals. The greater part of the population lives on a narrow 
plain between the Bay and the hills to the east. From this 
area, the avenues of escape are relatively few and can be 
easily closed by the various patrol forces if they are notified 

The Modern System 383 

quickly of this necessity. To the west, escape is possible only 
by means of ferries, and more recently by bridges, all of which 
can be placed under surveillance without delay. To the north 
and south there are a few major exits, and only two main 
highways with minor laterals penetrate the eastern hills. 
Thus the effective police blockade of the entire area in crimi- 
nal emergencies depends almost entirely upon the speed with 
which the police forces in the jurisdictions concerned can 


The police communication system of Berkeley is composed of 
four major separate units, which combine to form a single, 
well-balanced operating whole, with all communication ac- 
tivities centralized at Police Headquarters. These units are : 
(1) the police telephone system; (2) the patrol recall sys- 
tem; (3) the patrol radio communication system; and (4) a 
silent alarm system for banks and large mercantile establish- 
ments. A fifth unit is the general-alarm siren, and a proposed 
installation will include sending and receiving equipment to 
connect with the state-wide teletypewriter system. 


Prior to 1925, the police telephone system consisted of fifty- 
seven beat stations installed at various places in the city and 
connected to a central switchboard at headquarters. In its 
stead, a contract was entered into with the telephone company 
for the installation of a complete individual telephone system, 
consisting of a modern telephone exchange board with a ca- 
pacity of 120 circuits at Police Headquarters, and independ- 
ent beat telephone units connected with the police exchange 
by individual pairs of wires routed through the cables of the 
telephone company. The system thus became one in which a 
large number of individual telephone stations were brought 
under the direct control of the Police Department. Similar in 
all respects to the commercial telephone unit, they did not 
require commercial exchange service, since they were wired 
directly to the new police switchboard. An important condi- 

384 Police Communication Systems 

tion of the contract was that the system would be maintained 
by the telephone company, which, with its corps of trained 
telephone experts, was in a position to provide a superior 
service. All telephone equipment is leased by the Police De- 
partment from the local telephone company on a rental basis. 

The new telephone installation comprised the following 
equipment : (1) a private branch telephone exchange at head- 
quarters; (2) sixty-five beat telephone units appropriately 
housed and installed at strategic points throughout the city ; 
(3) independent transmission lines connecting each unit with 
the police exchange ; and (4) office-inter communicating lines 
and equipment and direct leased- wire connections with out- 
side departments in the immediate area. 

The hub of the system is the new switchboard at police 
headquarters, which is connected not only with each beat tele- 
phone unit, but also with all outside local, county, and state 
telephones, through eleven trunk lines leading to the tele- 
phone company's general exchange. Private leased wires con- 
nect the police switchboard direct to police headquarters in 
eight other cities on the east shore, in addition to the sheriffs' 
offices of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, and the office 
of the District Attorney of Alameda County. Further, all 
interoffice telephone communication between the various 
divisions and bureaus at headquarters passes through this 
exchange board, which also accommodates a direct connec- 
tion with the City Hall telephone exchange. A desk sergeant 
is in attendance at the police switchboard constantly at all 
hours of the day and night. 

Two telephones are provided at headquarters to serve the 
needs of those officers who may be engaged in confidential 
investigations. These units are wired directly to the city ex- 
change of the telephone company and do not pass through the 
local switchboard. 

Since all beat and interoffice telephones are independently 
wired to the police switchboard, each pair of arriving wires 
terminates in a jack, with which is associated a small pilot 
light and connection to a common buzzer. Thus, an incoming 

The Modern System 385 

call over either the beat or interoffice telephone system results 
in both audible and visual signals, which ensures prompt 
response at the switchboard. Each jack and pilot light is care- 
fully labeled, affording a convenient and accurate index by 
which the desk sergeant may, for instance, immediately de- 
termine the number and location of the box over which a call 

Beat patrolmen are required to report in to the desk ser- 
geant over a telephone at hourly intervals, at which time the 
officer receives any instructions that may be pending, and 
the sergeant records the time of the call on a time-sheet form 
provided for the purpose. Beat officers are also required to 
report any interruptions in normal patrol work, such as time 
out for lunch, investigations, and other activities which may 
temporarily cause them to be unavailable. Notations concern- 
ing these irregularities are made on the time sheet in order 
that the sergeant in charge may have before him at all times 
an accurate picture of the location and distribution of patrol 
strength available to him for assignment. 

The reporting time of beat officers is staggered, which re- 
lieves congestion at the police switchboard. A result of this 
arrangement is that, through the system alone, headquarters 
is in touch with one or more members of the dispersed patrol 
force at very short intervals. 

Through the eleven trunk lines leading to the main tele- 
phone exchange, adequate facilities are provided for rapid 
telephone contact with the community at large, and with the 
outside world. There is but one police headquarters and, so 
far as the general public is concerned, but one police tele- 
phone number. All complaints, reports, and requests for 
police assistance arrive over telephone lines at the police 
switchboard, or they may be delivered personally to the desk 
sergeant at headquarters. The greater number of such reports 
are received over the telephone. In any case, the desk ser- 
geant is the complaint dispatcher and he immediately routes 
the report or information to the division, bureau, detail, or 
patrolman concerned. 

386 Police Communication Systems 

The advantages of this telephone system are apparent. Any 
outside citizen may communicate with any particular divi- 
sion or official in the department through the single exchange 
board, and the officers at headquarters and the patrolmen on 
the street may get in touch with any particular person within 
or outside the department through the same exchange. To talk 
to any person within the city or hundreds of miles away, the 
patrolman at the box needs only to lift the receiver and ask 
for a connection with the main telephone exchange. 


The present system of signaling to policemen on duty 
throughout the city by means of electric lamps, a system in- 
stalled in 1925, was designed by Frank B. Rae, then City 
Electrician of Berkeley. The new signaling system consists of 
the central office control unit, forty-one red lamps hung over 
the center of strategic street intersections and the necessary 
connecting wires and circuits. The red-light signal units are 
distributed in four loop circuits which together blanket the 
entire city. By a new method of wiring, a single relay of spe- 
cial design controls all the lamps on any one circuit, so that 
but four such relays are necessary to operate the system. 
From ten to fifteen light units are placed on each circuit, and 
relay circuits are operated from the 110-volt distribution cir- 
cuit of the light and power utility, thus dispensing with the 
need for storage batteries. 

The red-light units are modern Mazda lamps of 200 watts, 
enclosed in General Electric Novalux street-lighting fixtures, 
in which a Holophane ruby bowl four-way refractor takes the 
place of the usual white globe of the ordinary bowl. The ruby 
light is clearly visible in the sunlight for a distance of from 
2000 to 2500 feet, as compared with from 300 to 500 feet for 
the carbon-lamp red-globe combination previously used. The 
number of these units is being increased each year in accord- 
ance with a well-devised improvement and extension plan. 

At the central office, the control box of the signaling system 
adjoins the police switchboard, so that it can be conveniently 

The Modern System 387 

operated by the desk sergeant. The front panel of the control 
box is equipped with four rows of tumbler switches, each row 
representing one of the four circuits of the system, and each 
switch controlling an individual combination. There is as- 
signed to each officer on the force a signal to which he must 
respond, and he disregards all other signals which may be 
flashing over his circuit, except the general alarm signal. 

Circuit signaling is effected by a set of code wheels driven 
by a motor situated behind the panel of the control box. The 
code wheels are so arranged that, by manipulation of the 
switches on the control panel, the following can be accom- 
plished : (1) any code-signal wheel may transmit its signal 
upon any single circuit, or simultaneously upon any number 
of circuits; (2) different code-signal wheels may transmit 
signals on separate circuits ; (3) the light-signal units may be 
caused to burn continuously on one or several circuits, and, 
simultaneously, code signals may be sent on any or all of the 
other circuits. In operation, a pilot lamp in each of the relay 
circuits flashes the signal that is being transmitted, or it will 
show a constant light on any circuit that is set to show a 
continuous light on the signal units. These pilot lamps also 
indicate that the relay controlling the lamp is performing 

With the intense and compelling power of the 200-watt 
lamp unit and ruby refractor employed, it was considered 
unnecessary to install an audible signal to attract the atten- 
tion of a patrolman; a horn or bell could, however, be in- 
stalled with every light if this should be deemed advisable. 

If the desk sergeant wishes to get in touch with a certain 
patrolman in District No. 1, he flashes his beat number over 
Circuit No. 1, until the patrolman calls headquarters from 
the nearest police box in response to the signal. If this patrol- 
man's beat lies on the boundary of two circuits, say Circuits 
Nos. 1 and 2, the desk sergeant may operate the signal on 
Nos. 1 and 2, thus making doubly sure that the patrolman 
will respond to the signal. Likewise, if the beat should cover 
three or four circuits, the officer's signal could be sent on each 

388 Police Communication Systems 

or all of them. While this officer's signal is flashing 011 one or 
more circuits, another signal may be sent simultaneously over 
any of the other circuits. 

Perhaps the sergeant wishes to get in touch with all the 
men on a circuit. By a switch on the panel, he can make all 
the lights on the desired circuit burn steadily, which is the 
general-alarm signal to which all the men on that circuit will 
report. While the lights are burning steadily on this circuit, 
the other circuits are free for sending any desired signal over 
any or all of them. Similarly, the men on the other circuits 
can be summoned in emergencies by burning the lights stead- 
ily on the desired circuits. Following an emergency call, if 
it is desired to recall all the men, or to transmit additional in- 
formation, a signal for that particular purpose may be sent. 

In this manner, the desk sergeant can communicate with 
any individual patrolman on the street, or with any group of 
patrolmen, or with every officer on duty at that time. From 
tests made on many occasions, it has been determined that the 
entire police force can be reached in from three to nine min- 
utes. Very often, contact is made with individual members 
of it in less than one minute. 


The Berkeley Police Department was peculiarly fitted for the 
pioneer work of applying radio to police work. In the first 
place, the entire police force of Berkeley had been completely 
motorized since 1914, each officer supplying his own car, for 
which he received a liberal monthly maintenance allowance 
from the city. Secondly, the city of Berkeley, being centrally 
located in the East Bay metropolitan area, was in a favorable 
position for undertaking to supply this entire area with po- 
lice radio service. 

Contracts 1 were therefore entered into with all the cities in 
the two counties of Alameda and Contra Costa, and with the 
sheriffs and district attorneys of these counties, whereby 
Berkeley undertook to broadcast radio information to all 

1 See Appendix 2, p. 489. 

The Modern System 389 

these units through its radio transmitter. Thus the Berkeley 
radio communication system serves as a message-transmitting 
agency for all police officials within a radius of fifty miles and 
over a combined area in excess of 1440 square miles. 

The police radio equipment consists of : ( 1 ) a 400-watt 
radio transmitter, (2) thirty-five receiving sets installed in 
police cars of the Berkeley Police Department, in addition to 
receivers installed in the police cars of other municipal or 
county agencies served by the system, (3) remote-control ap- 
paratus at the police switchboard, and (4) a radio service 
shop and organization. 

The Berkeley transmitter, housed in a building north of 
the City Hall, is a radio-telephone transmitter of the master- 
oscillator power-amplifier type. The radio carrier frequency 
is generated in a power quartz piezo-electric oscillating cir- 
cuit, and the stability of the quartz plate is ensured by an 
automatic control of its temperature to within .01 degree Cen- 
tigrade. The frequency generated in this circuit is amplified 
through succeeding radio-frequency stages of increasing 
power until a final stage is reached which has a carrier out- 
put of approximately 400 watts. 

Modulation is applied to the final radio-frequency ampli- 
fier, and the system employed is a modification of the conven- 
tional plate or Heising method. Voice is applied to the circuit 
through a microphone and two-stage speech amplifiers which 
excite two 49-type tubes. The operating frequency of the 
transmitter is 2618 kilocycles. Service tests showed that this 
transmitter sent satisfactory messages, not only to every point 
in the two counties it serves, but to many points over a wider 
area besides. 

The receiver necessary to ensure satisfactory reception in 
an automobile must be very high grade, sensitive, and kept in 
good condition. To answer these requirements and that of 
compactness, each of Berkeley's radio-equipped police cars 
contains a specially designed 7-tube superheterodyne set, 
measuring 8% inches in height and 9 by 9 inches in base 
dimensions. The entire power supply is taken from the stor- 

390 Police Communication Systems 

age battery of the car, thus eliminating all "B" batteries. 
These receivers are so well built that some of them have gone 
as long as five months without any attention or repairs. Re- 
ceivers are connected to a magnetic type loud-speaker which 
is installed in the top of the car, not more than twenty-four 
inches from the officer's head. This ensures clear and audible 
reception of messages at all times. 

Messages are broadcast over remote-control lines from a 
microphone suspended in front of the desk sergeant. By 
throwing a switch, conveniently located, the transmitter is 
immediately ready for broadcast. Not only are local messages 
sent, but also all messages originating in any of the cities and 
offices served by the system are transmitted in this manner. 

A police official outside of Berkeley who is served by this 
facility lifts a telephone receiver and is at once in contact with 
the desk sergeant at Berkeley police headquarters through a 
private leased wire. Thus all delay incident to routing a call 
through the city telephone exchange is obviated. The recep- 
tion of a call and its broadcast are simultaneous. For example, 
Northern Police Station (Oakland) calls Berkeley and the 
desk sergeant answers the telephone. The person calling says, 
"Broadcast from Northern Station." Desk sergeant says, 
"Just a moment," and opens the microphone ; then says, 
"Which car ?" Northern Station replies, "Cruiser No. Blank"; 
desk sergeant repeats, "Cruiser No. Blank" into the tele- 
phone and microphone at the same time. Northern Station 
says, "2241 Blank Street"; desk sergeant repeats, "2241 
Blank Street"; Northern Station says, "A holdup in prog- 
ress" ; desk sergeant repeats, "A holdup in progress." North- 
ern Station says, "That is all," and hangs up. At the time the 
Northern Station officer replaces the telephone receiver 011 
the hook, the Oakland radio-patrol car is in possession of the 
complete broadcast and on its way to the destination. The 
Berkeley desk sergeant then speaks into the microphone again, 
repeats the entire message twice, and ends with, "Transmis- 
sion No. Blank ; that is all, K-S-W." Messages intended for a 
specific car serve to notify officers in all police cars patrolling 

The Modern System 391 

throughout the entire area, thus keeping them alert, and en- 
abling them to act with greater intelligence and certainty in 
unexpected encounters with criminals. 

Broadcast reports of cars stolen in San Francisco (a city 
of 637,212 population, in 1930, at a distance of six miles across 
the Bay from Berkeley and Oakland) to police cars in that 
city are copied in Berkeley, and immediately re-broadcast 
over the entire East Bay area. Likewise, reports of cars stolen 
in the East Bay cities are copied by San Francisco and trans- 
mitted to their radio-equipped cars. 

Stationary police receivers are being installed throughout 
the East Bay district at strategic points, such as bridges, fer- 
ries, and similar control points through which all persons 
leaving the area must pass. Installation of radio receivers is 
now in progress on the numerous automobile ferryboats which 
ply regularly between Berkeley and San Francisco. Descrip- 
tions and license numbers of cars will be received by members 
of the crew and an effort made to locate stolen cars while they 
are in transit. This extension of police radio-communication 
service is but preliminary to the final installation of receiving 
equipment on all passenger and automobile ferries in opera- 
tion on San Francisco Bay. The completion of Golden Gate 
Bridge and another similar structure connecting San Fran- 
cisco with the East Bay area create additional points of sur- 
veillance which the police may use advantageously in the 
interception of the lawbreaker. In the event of the commis- 
sion of a major crime, the invisible communication network 
will enable law-enforcement officials to close the area and bar- 
ricade every avenue of escape for the criminals. If they are 
not caught red-handed, pursuit will have begun while the 
trail is still hot, and the search may be restricted within com- 
paratively narrow limits. 


The fourth unit of the communication system is the silent- 
alarm network, which connects banks and other business es- 
tablishments caring for large sums of money or valuables to 

392 Police Communication Systems 

police headquarters over leased wires. By tripping a lever, 
pulling open a drawer, or by any one of a number of other 
devices, an alarm may be sent to the police switchboard from 
any of the buildings so protected. 

At headquarters, adjoining the police switchboard, is the 
secret alarm board, into which all such private leased wires 
run. A separate board is made necessary by the telephone 
company's rule against placing in its switchboard equipment 
any wires for which it is not responsible. Were this regula- 
tion not in force, alarm transmission lines would be routed 
directly to the PBX panel. When an alarm is turned in, either 
by accident or by design, a red light appears over a number 
on the panel, which indicates the point from which the alarm 
is originating, thus providing a convenient index to the va- 
rious protected premises. At the same time, a buzzer is au- 
tomatically placed in operation and continues to sound until 
officials from the Police Department reach the place from 
which the alarm is sent. Following are the general features of 
the system's design and installation. 

(1) Wires connecting banks and other establishments di- 
rectly with the police department, these connecting circuits 
being so disposed that they cannot be tampered with. 

(2) A signaling device at police headquarters adapted to 
produce both an audible and a visual signal, both such sig- 
nals persisting until they are reset by the officer on duty, 
thereby ensuring signal reception. 

(3) Any interference with the bank equipment or the con- 
necting wires to cause an open circuit, or a short circuit, or 
a ground, or in any way disturbing the adjusted balance of 
the system, operates the alarm signal. 

(4) Each connecting circuit and its equipment, both at the 
bank and at police headquarters, is under constant electrical 
supervision, so that a failure of any part of the system will 
be automatically indicated. 

In this manner the premises connected into the silent alarm 
system are given the extra protection which the business con- 
ducted in them makes necessary. 

The Modern System 393 

To illustrate how these four major units are blended into 
one coordinated communication system, consider, for exam- 
ple, the receipt of such a message over the secret alarm system. 
Immediately, the recall-light signals are flashed in that dis- 
trict, and an alarm gong at headquarters is rung, notifying 
every person on duty there that an emergency alarm has been 
received. The radio transmission unit is put in operation and 
the radio cars needed to take care of the alarm are immedi- 
ately dispatched to the scene of action. Should the officers in 
these cars need further information, they go to the nearest 
telephone. Plans are being drawn up for the use of portable 
transmitters in patrol cars for two-way radio communication, 
which will eliminate any delay incident to using a telephone 
in such emergencies. 

Meanwhile, officers observing the emergency recall signal 
in action have called in and received their instructions. Thus 
the desk sergeant, who receives all requests for police assist- 
ance, controls every means of communication at the disposal 
of the department and can command the whole force from 
his central position. 

An important but little used unit in the communication sys- 
tem is the general-alarm siren, which is installed on the roof 
of a very tall building in the geographical center of the city. 
In emergencies or catastrophes requiring a general alarm, 
this siren, actuated either from the central fire-alarm sta- 
tion or the Fire Chief's office, is sounded. All officers, on or 
off duty, are required to respond to this signal immediately, 
either in person or by telephone. Direct wires, of course, ex- 
tend from the police switchboard to the fire-alarm room. 

Arrangements are now being made to connect the Berkeley 
Police Headquarters with the state-wide teletypewriter net- 
work, the central control point of which is in the Division of 
Criminal Identification and Investigation, at the State Cap- 
itol, in Sacramento, Calif. Messages received at that Division 
are sent out over the teletypewriter system to all police de- 
partments and sheriffs' offices in the state which are connected 
in the network. At present, Berkeley has such a connection 

394 Police Communication Systems 

secondarily through, direct telephone contact with the Sher- 
iff's Office in Oakland. Messages of special importance to East 
Bay officers are broadcast over the police radio. When the 
teletypewriter is installed in Berkeley, it will be possible to 
receive and transmit messages directly to and from any part 
of California, as well as to the city of Reno, Nev. 


The discussion is here concerned with the small communities 
of population not exceeding 10,000 which dot the map of this 
country and which, for the most part, are defenseless against 
criminal raid. Some idea of the extent and distribution of 
these small centers of population may be gained by a glance 
at the accompanying tables (pp. 395, 396) , prepared from the 
1930 census reports. 

The combined total population of this group of small com- 
munities is in excess of 19,798,199 or approximately 16.1 per 
cent of the total population of the entire United States. Yet, 
despite these imposing figures, little or no thought has been 
given to the development and use of even ordinary facilities 
of communication to reduce the hazard presented in these 
comparatively unprotected localities. An attempt is here 
made to present a simple, inexpensive plan of police com- 
munication which will afford the same type of protection that 
is found in the departments of larger cities. In every com- 
munity, occasions arise in the course of normal activity when 
calls for police assistance are made. It is to the distinct advan- 
tage of both the community and the authorized police agency 
that some means be quickly available to inform the police 
that they are wanted. The existence of an open channel of 
communication between members of the community and the 
police agency is a fundamental requirement of police service, 
regardless of the size or population of the town or city. 

Prompt service in taking care of ordinary complaints will 
impress local troublemakers and reduce, if not eliminate, 
many sources of amateur criminal activity which, if not re- 
tarded, may later develop to serious proportions. In emergen- 

The Modern System 395 



of cities 

of cities 

of cities 

of cities 
Under 1,000 
























































































New Hampshire 
New Jersey 
New Mexico 








New York 





North Carolina 





North Dakota 











Rhode Island 





South Carolina 





South Dakota 
















Washington . . 





West Virginia 















Grand total 15,556 communities! 

* Total does not accomodate result of counting four places in two states each. 

t Tabulations include only incorporated communities. The census reports indicate 
,t Massachusetts and Rhode Island had no incorporated towns within these population 
ssifications, while New Hampshire had only two in the 5,000 to 10,000 classification. 

396 Police Communication Systems 

cies, such communication facilities may mean the difference 
between the life or death of some individual in the commu- 
nity, or the determining factor in the apprehension of a law- 
breaker who would otherwise have made a successful escape. 
With a higher degree of police protection in the large met- 
ropolitan centers, it was to be expected that criminals would 


Regional division 

5,000 to 

2,500 to 

1,000 to 


New England 





Middle Atlantic 





East North Central 
West North Central 





3 241 

South Atlantic 





East South Central 





West South Central 




















States comprising each regional division are as follows: 

New England Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode 

Island, Connecticut. 

Middle Atlantic New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania. 

East North Central Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin. 

West North Central. .. .Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, 

Nebraska, Kansas. 
South Atlantic Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, 

South Carolina, Georgia, Florida. 

East South Central Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi. 

West South Central Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas. 

Mountain Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, 

Utah, Nevada. 
Pacific Washington, Oregon, California. 

shift the scene of their activities to the smaller towns and 
communities where the hazards of apprehension were not so 
great. The entry of the outside criminal into towns and vil- 
lages means a troubled period for a group of peaceful and 
law-abiding people unless the criminal threat is checkmated 
with more effective equipment and methods. Driven from the 
larger cities, bandits and other professional criminals de- 
scend upon unwary rural communities which are known in 
advance to be unprotected and where the margin of safety 
substantially guarantees a successful escape from the scene 

The Modern System 397 

of crime. Statistics for the past ten years show an alarming 
increase in the number of bank robberies, murders, and other 
similar criminal attacks on the small community. 

No longer may the rural locality consider itself isolated 
from the whirlpools of human activity to be found in the 
congested centers. Smooth macadam and concrete highways 
with their connecting laterals penetrate into every section, 
forming a gigantic transportation network which, with the 
automobile, has annihilated time and distance. Together, they 
make the small community accessible to sudden attack and 
supply the means for a rapid and successful escape. Time was 
when rural crime was largely confined to chicken stealing and 
similar minor offenses, conceived and executed by local mis- 
creants. Crime in the rural districts and small towns today 
is far more likely to bear the trademark of some well-organ- 
ized band of experts in outlawry, carefully engineered in the 
urban underworld, and carried out with the aid of all the in- 
strumentalities provided by a machine age. 

The lack of advance preparation and organization for 
emergency on the part of the community increases the hazards 
of the situation. The occurrence of a crime of even moderate 
proportions in the average small locality is therefore in the 
nature of a disaster or catastrophe. 


In considering the police-communication possibilities in the 
small locality, cognizance is taken of the fact that financial 
resources are limited, as a rule, so that the investment in 
equipment must necessarily be small. The plan here pre- 
sented requires but a nominal expenditure, well within the 
reach of any town or community, irrespective of size. It is a 
recognized fact that the smaller the police force, the more 
definitely will a communication system contribute to an in- 
crease in the value of the police department as a whole, and 
of each individual member of the force. 

Police headquarters. Two types of community are iden- 
tifiable for purposes of this discussion : one has a regular po- 

398 Police Communication Systems 

lice station or headquarters; the other has not. This is an 
important distinction, since any scheme of communication in 
police service requires the existence of a centralized point to 
which calls for police assistance may be directed, and from 
which the available force may receive its information and in- 
structions. Where a police station or office is already estab- 
lished, this phase of the problem is automatically disposed 
of. Many small towns, however, do not feel that the volume 
of routine business justifies the expense involved in the es- 
tablishment of a central office. Nevertheless, the first prereq- 
uisite of the communication plan is a definite central point 
for police operations. The police official may (and in many 
places he does) arrange with a local business firm for permis- 
sion to use a small part of its office or premises as the central- 
ized point in the local communication plan. It may be, too, 
that he uses his own home, if it is centrally situated, for this 

The best and most logical expedient is to designate the local 
telephone office as police headquarters. Here, made to order, 
is the nucleus of a police communication system in the small 
community a central office already established with direct 
lines of communication radiating to every section of the com- 
munity and to the surrounding territory as well. Telephone 
companies will be found ready and willing to give all possible 

Local telephone operators, usually young women, are con- 
versant with every phase of the business and social life of the 
community, as well as the local geography, and they can ren- 
der extremely valuable service to police officials. They are 
usually alert, and dependable in an emergency. Telephone 
history shows by many examples how they have remained at 
their posts, even at the risk of life, in dangerous situations. 

The reporting -in schedule. It is neither possible nor de- 
sirable for the local police official to remain at his headquar- 
ters, because, the police force being limited in numbers, every 
member of it is needed for patrolling the area served. The 
distribution of the entire force may be comparable to that 

The Modern System 399 

of a few police beats in a city. One of the first provisions of 
the plan, therefore, is that the force shall report in over the 
telephone to headquarters at stated intervals. This interval 
will depend upon local conditions, but should not exceed two 
hours. The maximum time interval covering the operations 
of the metropolitan beat officer is one hour. The local tele- 
phone operator should be provided with a simple record form 
on which she may record the time of these calls and make 
proper notations concerning the whereabouts of the officer or 
officers in the ensuing interval. 

The reporting-iii schedule increases the availability of the 
force and at the same time assures their receiving promptly 
any reports and information which may have arrived in the 
interim between calls. Even should the communication plan 
stop here, the community would be in possession of a definite 
communication framework which would amplify remarkably 
the power and effectiveness of its police. Up to this point, the 
plan does not involve the outlay of any money whatsoever. 

Beat telephones, It is not necessary that any funds be set 
aside for the purchase of field or beat telephones in communi- 
ties of this class, particularly the smaller towns. As the popu- 
lation approaches the 10,000 mark, however, the need for such 
equipment begins to make itself felt, and the distribution of 
field telephones at strategic points will appreciably expedite 
police operations, serving the same purposes and functions 
as in the larger city. The cost of installing each field telephone 
should be little more than the cost of installing an ordinary 
house telephone extension. If they are attached to posts, or 
otherwise exposed to the elements, they should be protected 
by a locked, weatherproof housing constructed of wood or 
metal, preferably metal. Local artisans are available in every 
community who are able to perform the necessary construc- 
tion work at a very economical figure. All beat telephone lines 
obviously should converge at local police headquarters. 

The recall-signal system. Of the greatest importance is 
the establishment of some form of visible or audible alarm by 
means of which the central station may signal to members of 

400 Police Communication Systems 

the force that they are wanted. In an emergency, it is seldom 
indeed that a police officer is close at hand or even quickly 
available by ordinary means. It is fundamental in the service 
that there must be some way to permit prompt contact with 
all members of the available force by day or night. 

The small area of these towns makes the installation of an 
effective signaling system a simple and inexpensive matter, 
yet relatively few communities have availed themselves of 
this valuable device. In a recent survey of 225 towns in this 
population classification, 2 it was found that 207 possessed no 
signal equipment whatsoever. One town had a first-class avia- 
tion beacon ; half a dozen employed a combination bell and 
red light placed on the town water tower ; two had master 
switches by which the street lights could be flashed. About 
one-fourth of the towns used the fire siren, and the rest a red- 
light device in one form or another. Expense was often a pri- 
mary consideration, sometimes to the point of absurdity. In 
one town where the red light was placed on the water tower, 
it was fastened on one side of the tower because that meant 
a saving of a few dollars. The fact that it was visible only to 
patrolmen on the north side of the town was not considered. 

Good signal equipment may be installed for a modest sum, 
well within the budget limits of any police force, no matter 
how small. The equipment may be designed to provide an 
audible or a visible signal, or both. The silent, visible signal is 
recommended. Although its power to shock the senses of per- 
ception is small when compared to that of the audible signal, 
experience has shown that officers soon grow accustomed to 
watching for the light, and the time response is almost always 
equal to the occasion. 

Following are three of the many alternatives which may 
be adopted as a solution of the recall problem in the small 
community : 

(1) One red-light signal unit of medium power, mounted 
at some high central point in such a way that it can be seen 
from all directions and from every part of town. The device 

2 Report of the Law Observance and Enforcement Committee (1931). 

The Modern System 401 

should be connected by direct wire to a suitable switch or 
push button at the central office. 

(2) A series of red-light units at strategic street intersec- 
tions where each will be visible from four directions, and 
equipped with the above-described operating connections. 

(3) A cut-in switch at the central office, to flash the street- 
lighting system. 

These may suggest other simple expedients and variations 
easily adaptable to local conditions. In every community, lo- 
cal electricians and even radio amateurs with the necessary 
electrical knowledge are both able and willing to lend their 
efforts and experience in the installation of these inexpensive 
devices. For the community needing a more elaborate instal- 
lation, standard police-recall systems of the highest merit now 
available may be obtained at reasonable cost. 

The general alarm. Besides the police recall signal, every 
community in this class should have a general -alarm in- 
strument, preferably a siren, to be sounded only in grave 
emergencies. In conjunction therewith, a definite plan of 
organization that will include all responsible citizens in the 
community should be developed in advance, as a policy of pre- 
paredness for unexpected emergency situations. 

Burglar and holdup alarms. The protection of banks and 
mercantile establishments in the small town against the in- 
roads of visiting desperadoes is a problem of major propor- 
tions. Adequate alarm protection offers the only satisfactory 
approach to its solution, since, regardless of the existing form 
of police protection whether city marshal, chief of police, 
sheriff, constable, or state police the police agency must re- 
ceive notification of the attack without delay. There is no 
other known device or method that will discharge this func- 
tion so well as the electrical circuit. 

All banks and mercantile establishments in the community 
which have special attractions for bandits or burglars should 
be electrically protected, with all transmission lines wired 
direct to the police central office. It is, further, a simple mat- 
ter to connect the alarm circuits in such a way that when they 

402 Police Communication Systems 

are disturbed they will operate the recall-signal lights auto- 

Many types of burglary and holdup protection devices are 
available. If these are too expensive, local electricians may be 
depended upon to design alarm contacts and terminals which 
will serve the purpose admirably. It should be borne in mind 
that the alarm "touch off" or exciting device is the critical 
element in any form of alarm system, particularly those de- 
signed for robbery protection. Footrails, push buttons, and 
other devices generally used in the touch-operated system 
should be replaced by special currency trays, money drawers, 
and other devices which are actuated by the normal physical 
motions of a bandit in executing a robbery. Here again, the 
advance preparation of a plan of operation for the local force 
is to be strongly recommended. 

Thus, through a centralized system of communication, the 
local force is in a position to handle an emergency. In the 
event of a bank attack, for example, the alarm system pro- 
vides immediate notification at the central office, and through 
the recall and telephone systems the available force may be 
mobilized without delay and the premises surrounded. Should 
the visitors be fortunate enough to break through this cordon, 
another trap awaits them. 

Highway control points. Leading out from every city and 
town are main arterial highways and laterals which offer con- 
venient avenues of escape after the commission of a crime. 
An examination of the map covering any given community 
and the immediate surrounding area will reveal certain stra- 
tegic points on these thoroughfares which, in an emergency, 
should be covered promptly by one or more officers. The com- 
munication plan of the community should provide in advance 
for the prompt movement of officers to these control points. 
An advance survey of communication facilities should be 
made and a pre-emergency plan developed for rapid contact 
with outside departments, so that the control points may be 
placed under observation in the shortest possible time. Con- 
ferences should be held with the police and sheriffs of sur- 

The Modern System 403 

rounding counties, cities, and towns with this end in view, 
and for the general purpose of coordinating for emergency 
operation the efforts of all police forces and equipment in the 
immediate area. 

In the absence of any other means of communication for 
this purpose, the telephone system is always available. Inter- 
city telephone service is now extensively used to provide a 
swift method of communication between police organizations. 
The speed of this service may be more f ully appreciated when 
it is realized that more than 95 per cent of all intercity calls 
are now completed while the calling party remains at the 
telephone. The average time for completing such calls is less 
than two minutes. 

Intercity number books or directories are a convenient aid 
in emergency operations, and branch offices of the telephone 
company will prepare such directories without charge for any 
police organization desiring them. Sequence calling lists may 
also reduce che time required to speed the notification of an 
alarm to a number of points. By this method only one request 
need be placed with the operator; as fast as one call is com- 
pleted she sets up another. Telephone-company representa- 
tives will be glad to give full information concerning this 
telephone service. 

Where the small community is within a regional area pos- 
sessing an organized regional police communication system, 
the problem of caring for control points in an emergency is 
greatly simplified, since this is one of the principal functions 
of the system. Through the facilities of the teletypewriter 
and radio communication, mobilization of forces in the area 
is effected without delay and their movements are directed 
with telling effect. Meanwhile, until the regional-system idea 
has gained widespread adoption, it is a responsibility of local 
officials in the community to take inventory of their prepar- 
edness for emergencies and so organize communication and 
available manpower as to be ready when the attack comes. 




A SURVEY of the police-communication systems in leading 
cities outside of the United States reveals an unusual 
similarity among the main devices employed. In Shanghai, 
Singapore, and Melbourne, in London, Paris, and Berlin, the 
telephone and telegraph, call boxes, recall signals, teletype- 
writer, and radio are the chief reliance of the police in meet- 
ing the necessities of police communication. It is not to be 
understood, however, that all the large cities surveyed made 
use of all these instruments in their respective communica- 
tion plans. In fact, very few cities have installed communi- 
cation systems in which each of these facilities is so employed 
that the whole presents a complete and balanced arrangement. 

Some cities which employ teletypewriter and radio, for 
example, do not maintain a beat telephone and recall system, 
which is considered almost a sine qua non of police communi- 
cation in the United States. In others, the communication 
equipment of the police department consists of nothing more 
than the regular telephone and telegraph facilities plus a few 
private telephone lines. It is only in such large cities as Lon- 
don, Paris, and Berlin, situated in highly industrialized and 
technically advanced countries, that the police have pro- 
gressed toward a more complete utilization of the modern 
communication facilities now available for police service. 

In studying the police-communication systems of foreign 
countries, it is well to bear in mind certain differences be- 
tween their police problems and police organizations and 
those of the United States, which account in part for differ- 
ences in their respective communication structures. In the 
first place, the police of most foreign countries are organized 
on a military or semimilitary basis and are under state con- 
trol. Even in those countries where independent municipal 
police forces do exist, they are usually relatively unimportant 

[ 404 ] 

Foreign Systems 405 

in comparison with the national gendarmery. This tends to 
concentrate attention on the development of long-distance 
communication facilities, to the detriment of such local and 
decentralizing means of police communication as the beat tele- 
phone and recall signal, which appear relatively unimportant 
to these state-police organizations. Thus the police of Hun- 
gary, Italy, Poland, and some of the states of Australia, have 
well-developed telegraph and radio equipment but lack any 
appreciable amount of local communication facilities. 

In the second place, as Fosdick pointed out, 1 many of the 
prewar European police forces did not rest on a popular 
basis, but were the instrumentalities of a ruling class; and 
this condition still exists in spite of many changes in the con- 
stitutional forms and theories of government which have 
taken place as a result of the war. The police departments of 
these countries function more as political instruments than 
as agencies for the discharge of strictly police duties. Condi- 
tions in Hungary, which are typical of a large number of such 
countries, are thus described in a confidential report by one 
competent observer : 

The World War, the revolution of 1918, bolshevism in 1919, and the 
particular economic and labor conditions resulting from the loss of two- 
thirds of its former territory, all make it necessary for the state to 
follow with the closest attention any matter involving public order. 

Well-organized gangs of the American type are unknown. There is 
no "industrialization of crime." The police have only to deal with 
individual criminals or small ad hoc organized groups of them. On the 
other hand, the endeavors of Soviet emissaries, and certain unsettled 
local problems, make preventive work and prompt, energetic action by 
the police an urgent necessity in any attempts of organized groups to 
overthrow the established government. 

For this reason the intercity system of communication is well devel- 
oped and resembles a military organization, while communication be- 
tween the individual patrolman and the police station has been rather 
neglected. It is considered of greater importance to get through promptly 
the orders from headquarters to the separate units and reserves than 
to increase the speed of communication between patrolmen and their 
immediate superiors. Individual crimes are comparatively unimportant 
in the eyes of the police authorities, while they see considerable danger in 

1 Eaymond B. Fosdick, European Police Systems, Chap. II. 

406 Police Communication Systems 

mass demonstration, riots, and revolutionary activities. To be prepared 
for these and for their speedy suppression, the present system was de- 

The effect of such conditions upon the police communication 
system is adequately pointed out in the quotation. 

Again, the economic and social conditions, as well as the 
police customs of certain countries, have a decided effect 011 
police procedure and the development of police communica- 
tion. Certain countries are so backward economically that 
crime itself is sporadic and primitive and no complex commu- 
nication system is required to deal with it. In other countries, 
rigid police control of the movements of people has evidently 
forestalled the need for, and the development of, certain 
means of communication. Thus the city of Tokyo, Japan, and 
its environs, with a population of five and a half million peo- 
ple concentrated within a relatively small area, would appear 
to present a serious problem in police communication. Never- 
theless the present system of police administration seems well 
adapted to the conditions and operates successfully with 
communication equipment much less modern than is found 
necessary in European and American metropolitan areas of 
comparable size. This is partly because of the fact that in 
Japan records are kept by the police of every person through- 
out the Empire. Landlords, houseowners, and local authori- 
ties are required to report weekly concerning arrivals and 
departures of persons coming under their cognizance. Under 
this system it is practically impossible for any person to go 
anywhere within the Empire and keep knowledge of his move- 
ments from the police. Automobiles, moreover, are rarely 
used by criminals in escaping from the scene of a crime, 
owing to the scarcity of the vehicles and to the fact that, with 
the exception of urban centers, automobile transportation is 
seriously hampered by lack of roads. Because of these and 
similar factors, rapid communication facilities, such as radio, 
are not urgently needed in Japan at the present time. 

Finally, the geographic proximity to one another of the 
nations of Europe has prompted the development of a system 

Foreign Systems 407 

of international police cooperation and radio communication 
the like of which is to be found nowhere else in the world. The 
significance of this development should not be lost upon the 
United States, where people are becoming aware of the acute 
need for greater cooperation between the police forces of vari- 
ous governmental units. The accomplishments of European 
police officials in achieving such organized cooperation, de- 
spite the difficult barriers of national rivalries, differences in 
language, and the antagonism left by the World War, should 
spur this country to a more rapid development of regional 
police coordination. 

With these differences in mind, a brief description will be 
given of the outstanding communication systems of police or- 
ganizations throughout the world. For purposes of this dis- 
cussion, the map of the world has been roughly divided into 
certain areas within which there seem to be approximately 
like police problems and police organizations, with a corre- 
sponding similarity in communication equipment and pro- 


The London Metropolitan Police. The London metropolitan 
police district, for the safety and protection of which the Lon- 
don Metropolitan Police Force is responsible, comprises an 
area of seven hundred square miles and a population of almost 
eight million people. It includes, roughly, all the area within 
a circle of fifteen miles' radius from Charing Cross, with the 
exception of the City of London, which has a separate police 
force to guard its one square mile of area in the center of 
Greater London. Within this huge metropolitan area are to 
be found two whole counties (London and Middlesex), parts 
of four others (Surrey, Essex, Kent, and Hertford), and 
forty-two boroughs, three of which (Croydon, West Ham, 
and East Ham) are county boroughs. 

This police district is divided into twenty-two divisions, 
with one additional unit to patrol the River Thames. These 
divisions are of unequal size, ranging from less than one 

408 Police Communication Systems 

square mile in the center of the district to more than eighty- 
two square miles in the outlying districts. Each division is in 
turn decentralized into subdivisions, which contain a varying 
number of police stations. The police station is the lowest or- 
ganizational unit of the Metropolitan Police Force. To the 
station are attached the constables and police sergeants who 
patrol the area assigned to the station. For the purposes of 
patrol, moreover, the territory is further decentralized by 
dividing the station area into sections in charge of sergeants, 
and the sections into beats patrolled by constables. 

The communication system required to serve this huge area 
with its force of twenty thousand policemen is necessarily 
complex. The chief instruments relied upon by Scotland Yard 
for rapid communication are the telephone, the Creed tele- 
printer, and the radio. A private telephone system connects 
headquarters with all divisions, subdivisions, and police 
stations. The telephone-booth system, introduced by Chief 
Constable Crawley at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 2 is now being in- 
stalled in the district and will extend the telephone system to 
the lowest unit in the organization, the constable on the beat. 
By means of this telephone system, the beat patrolman and 
the public can instantly communicate with a police station, or 
with any officer in any divisional, subdivisional, or headquar- 
ters office of the force. 

In order to increase the speed and improve the quality or 
interstation communication, especially in the accurate trans- 
mission of messages of general interest to the whole depart- 
ment, or a part thereof, the Metropolitan Police have started 
a plan for the progressive installation of Creed teleprinters. 
Six of the machines are already in use, affording two-way 
communication between headquarters and three divisional 
stations. Plans for introducing an extended teleprinter net- 
work for Scotland Yard have already been engineered, and 
the Post Office has been authorized to install equipment. 

New Creed page teleprinters will be first installed to pro- 
vide communication between the Yard and the twenty -three 

2 See page 89, above. 

Foreign Systems 409 

divisional and three subdivisional stations. The switchboard 
will be so arranged that three services will be available : (1) 
broadcast from Scotland Yard to all divisions; (2) broadcast 
to any selected group of divisions ; and (3) two-way commu- 
nication between Scotland Yard and any other division. After 
this installation is completed, it is planned to expand the net- 
work to include all the subdivisional stations and perhaps all 
police stations. With the introduction of the police-booth sys- 
tem into the district, it has been suggested that even these 
enclosures be so equipped. This would make possible the si- 
multaneous printing of urgent messages from headquarters 
on all the machines in the boxes, for the attention of patrolling 

In accordance with the practice of other modern police de- 
partments, Scotland Yard has adapted radio communication 
to police uses. A central broadcasting station has been estab- 
lished on the top floor of the headquarters building, from 
which messages are broadcast to the various radio-equipped 
automobiles and trucks of the department. The number of 
radio-equipped cars used by the department is rapidly in- 
creasing, the present total being approximately two hundred 
and twenty. Some of the lighter cars are equipped with re- 
ceiving instruments only, while many of the one-ton lorries 
maintain two-way communication with headquarters, since 
they carry both receiving and transmitting equipment. 

Borough police forces. With the exception of the Metro- 
politan Police Force, all police departments in Great Britain 
serve either a borough 3 or a county. Until recently, police 
communication in the principal boroughs of Great Britain 
was somewhat backward when compared with the system of 
the Metropolitan Police Force, and with the communication 
systems of American cities of comparable size. Telephones 
installed in police booths composed the entire communication 
system of police departments in almost all English cities. At 
present, however, there is a decided trend toward the adop- 
tion of more modern facilities. Birmingham recently added 

3 Incorporated cities in Great Britain are known as boroughs. 

410 Police Communication Systems 

a complete beat telephone and recall-signal installation to its 
system of police communication, and other communities are 
planning similar improvements. 

Generally speaking, large cities, such as Liverpool (855,530 
population), Manchester (751,900 population), and Sheffield 
(524,900) are not equipped with teletypewriters or with 
radios, and depend entirely upon the police-booth system and 
motorcycle dispatch riders for communication purposes. Al- 
though Great Britain with its many large cities situated in a 
comparatively small area offers an ideal opportunity for the 
installation of an intercity teletypewriter network, such a 
system has not yet been placed in operation, chiefly because 
of the expense involved. The same inertia which retards the 
expansion of the teletypewriter in this country is also felt 
abroad. In none of the British boroughs do important banks 
or mercantile establishments have burglar-alarm systems con- 
nected directly with the police stations. Existing alarm sys- 
tems are of the type which sounds a local alarm outside the 

The most noteworthy trend in police communication in 
English cities, both large and small, is toward the adoption of 
the police-box system and the consequent decentralization of 
the department, Communities of varying size and area are 
rapidly adopting the Crawley police-box system, the latest 
installations being made by the London Metropolitan Police 
and the police of Edinburgh. The system is now in operation 
in large cities such as Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham 
(population 265,700), and in smaller cities of which Chester- 
field (66,450), Derby (137,700), Doncaster (58,230), Gran- 
tham (18,902), Rotherham (72,040), Bannley (73,790), and 
Bootle (76,799) are representative. Liverpool, the outstanding 
exception, has not yet adopted this system. 4 

County police forces. The county police forces of Eng- 
land are, according to Fosdick, 5 of much greater importance 

4 See Chief Constable Frederick James Crawley, "Decentralization 
and the Police Box System," Proceedings of the International Associa- 
tion of Chiefs of Police, pp. 60-65 (1929). 

5 European Police Systems, p. 61. 

Foreign Systems 411 

than the borough police. Every administrative county has an 
organized police force, which has jurisdiction over the entire 
area of the county with the exception of boroughs of more 
than 20,000 poulatkm which maintain their own police de- 
partments. Many towns and boroughs with populations in 
excess of 20,000, however, do not possess established police 
organizations of their own and therefore depend upon the 
county forces for police protection. The county police thus 
carry the burden of communication problems, both urban and 

In the urban areas under their jurisdiction, the police com- 
munication systems of the county forces are similar to those 
in the boroughs. The police-booth system is now being ex- 
tended to rural districts in some counties and, in conjunction 
with mobile patrols, is proving quite successful. However, 
most counties have yet to provide communication between 
headquarters and the constable in charge of a rural beat. 

Lincolnshire, a typical agricultural county, is divided into 
ten divisions, each under the charge of a superintendent with 
headquarters in a town. Each division is decentralized into 
two or more subdivisions under the supervision of an inspec- 
tor, and the subdivisions are divided into sergeants' sections. 
A sergeant is in charge of about four constables' beats. The 
constable resides in his beat, which comprises an area of from 
six to eight square miles. Telephones are installed in the 
offices of the superintendent and inspectors, at sergeants' sta- 
tions, and at certain constables' stations in areas where these 
are placed at important points. With many beat constables, 
however, direct communication is not yet possible, but, since 
the sergeant visits the constables in his section daily and pre- 
pares their individual "routes" of patrol, he knows where to 
find any of his men at any time. 

A distinct handicap is the difficulty of conveying urgent 
messages to a constable on an isolated beat. There is a lack of 
rapid communication between the directing authority and the 
patrolling officer, although the latter may communicate with 
his superior at any time by using the Post Office Telephone 

412 Police Communication Systems 

Service either at the village post office, or from any of the 
houses in his beat area where a telephone is installed. In addi- 
tion, post-office telephone booths are being set up in country 
districts, and there are the telephone boxes at important road 
junctions maintained by the Automobile Association and the 
Royal Automobile Club, to which the beat constable has a key 
for use in emergencies. 

In view of the fact that the present rural beat system will 
doubtless be superseded by mobile patrols, radio communica- 
tion should become of great importance to the county con- 
stabularies. A committee chosen by the Chief Constables of 
England has been appointed to consider the possibilities 
of radio, but no conclusion has as yet been reached. Radio 
communication between headquarters (the chief constable's 
office) and the superintendents in charge of divisions has 
been the object of experiment in Lancashire and the West 
Riding of Yorkshire, but, in the words of the chief constable 
of the latter force, "has not yet been put to practical use." The 
Lancashire force has at least one car equipped with radio. 

The English police have given much attention to the design 
and use of small portable radio receivers which may be car- 
ried by the individual officer as part of his personal equip- 
ment, much the same as his handcuffs and baton. At Brighton 
and Bradford, this type of equipment has been used success- 
fully for the transmission of orders and instructions from 
headquarters to the patrolling officer. Work is progressing at 
the present time on the design of a portable transmitter with 
similar specifications which will permit two-way communi- 
cation between the patrolman and his station. 6 

The Lancashire teletype system. The teletypewriter, 
which would meet ideally many of the communication needs 
of county forces, has as yet been installed in but one county, 
Lancashire. This system, which has been in use since March 
1, 1932, consists of a central teleprinter station at headquar- 
ters, and teleprinters at each of the eighteen divisional sta- 
tions of the county. The system does not extend beyond the 

6 See "Radio Patrol Operation," Chap. V, p. 157. 

Foreign Systems 413 

divisional station, messages being sent to sectional stations by 
means of the private telephone lines of the department. 

The apparatus at headquarters consists of a teleprinter 
switchboard, two teleprinters, an automatic transmitter, and 
a keyboard perforator and reperforator. The divisional sta- 
tions are each equipped with one teleprinter and a rectifier. 
The system is so arranged that it is possible to transmit from 
headquarters to any station individually, or to all or a number 
of them simultaneously. Messages coming in from a division 
which require circulation are received on the reperforator, in 
addition to the teleprinter; the reperf orated tape thus ob- 
tained is used to send the message out again by means of the 
automatic transmitter, which operates at a speed of sixty-six 
words per minute. The keyboard perforator is also used to 
prepare punched tape for the automatic transmitter when 

The Lancashire teleprinter has proved a great utility to 
the force and is, in the opinion of the police officers, an un- 
questionable improvement over the telephone in the trans- 
mission of messages, reports, and broadcasts. This undoubt- 
edly provides an example which other counties will follow as 
funds become available. Ultimately, all the county and bor- 
ough forces of England may be brought together in a national 
teleprinter network centering at Scotland Yard. 


Paris. Paris, the administrative center of France, like 
London, the British capital, is policed by a metropolitan po- 
lice force which has jurisdiction over the Department of the 
Seine, an area of some 185 square miles. For police purposes, 
this area is divided into 20 districts, called arrondissements, 
and each arrondissement is divided into four quarters. The 
quarter is under the charge of a sergeant, who is responsible 
to the captain in command of the arrondissement in which 
the quarter is situated. The station at which the captain has 
his quarters becomes the district headquarters, and is the cen- 
ter of the communication system of that area. 

414 Police Communication Systems 

For so large and important a city, Paris is relatively back- 
ward in the development of a modern system of police com- 
munication. It is only recently that the Paris Prefecture of 
Police has organized a signal system for the use of both police 
and public. This system permits a citizen, by the simple oper- 
ation of breaking a glass on a street alarm box, to notify the 
district police station of his need for police assistance, and, 
if necessary, communicate with the station by telephone. The 
same box contains a telephone for the use of the patrolman 
in communicating with the district police office and with the 
chief of police at headquarters. In February, 1932, there were 
600 such telephone posts in the city, and many others were to 
be added in the course of the year. 

The Parisian police, moreover, lag behind the London 
metropolitan police in the utilization of the radio and radio- 
equipped motor cars. The Prefecture has studied the matter 
of automobile patrols equipped with radio, and plans have 
been made to organize patrols of this kind in the near future. 
The cars will be fully equipped with sending and receiving 
apparatus and will be continuously in touch with police head- 

Banks and large business establishments in Paris do not 
at present have burglar alarms connected by direct wire to 
near-by police stations. However, a private organization ap- 
proved by the municipal authorities plans to install such a 
system before long. Subscribers will then be able to call the 
police station of their district by simply pulling a lever. In 
design and operation, the equipment resembles the "Notruf" 
system which is being widely adopted in Germany. 

Other French cities. The communication equipment of 
the important provincial cities of France, like that of the 
boroughs of England, consists mainly of telephones and is 
comparatively simple. Bordeaux (267,990 population) , which 
may be taken as a typical example, is divided into eleven po- 
lice districts, each under the control of the precinct headquar- 
ters, known as the "Commissariat." Each commissariat has 
within its area a number of posies de police, which are small 

Foreign Systems 415 

stationary posts with an enclosure housing two policemen. A 
private police telephone system connects the posies de police 
with the commissariat, and the commissariat with the Perma- 
nence (police headquarters). No other means of communica- 
tion are employed. 


The principal police forces of Belgium are the municipal po- 
lice, the national Gendarmerie, the maritime police, and the 
criminal police (Police Judiciaire), a detective force attached 
to the various courts. Each of these forces has developed a 
communication system best suited to its individual needs. In 
each city of Belgium, no matter how small, there is a munici- 
pal police force under the command of a chief of police or the 
burgomaster, which has jurisdiction only over its own muni- 
cipal territory. Thus, in Brussels, which comprises seventeen 
municipalities, there are seventeen independent police forces. 

Since the telegraph and telephone are public utilities oper- 
ated and owned by the government, all local police forces have 
the use of these services without tolls. The public telephone 
and telegraph are the only means of communication used by 
the municipal police of all but the largest cities in Belgium. 
Brussels, the capital city, has developed the most complete 
system of municipal police communication, and this in spite 
of the handicap presented by its numerous independent satel- 
lite cities. 

Besides the public telephones with which all the police sta- 
tions are equipped, the central police station of Brussels is 
connected by private wire through its own exchange with all 
police substations, with the Burgomaster, the Police Judi- 
ciaire, the King's Attorney, the Army, and the fire stations. 
Unlike Antwerp, which is larger than Brussels proper, in 
Brussels the police have a system of private telephones in- 
stalled in small boxes attached to the walls of buildings along 
the principal streets, by means of which every policeman can 
report unusual occurrences to the central division. There is, 
however, no recall system of any kind associated with these 

416 Police Communication Systems 

police-box telephones, the recall not being used anywhere in 
Belgium. The use of alarm devices connected directly with 
police stations is forbidden by police regulations. 

The national police force of Belgium is composed of a body 
of 6000 gendarmes distributed throughout the country. There 
are at least five gendarmes to each three or four localities. 
They cooperate with the municipal police forces but take their 
orders from their own officers. The only means of communi- 
cation now employed by this national police force is the public 
telephone and telegraph, although a system of radio commu- 
nication between all stations of the force is being planned by 
the Belgian government. 

Radio is not used by any of the municipal police forces of 
Belgium, either for intercommunication between the different 
cities or for sending messages to radio-equipped police cars. 
The maritime police, which maintains order on the rivers, 
canals, and in the ports of the country, does make use of radio 
equipment to transmit orders to the single river patrol boat 
operated by the government in the short stretch of the Scheldt 
River belonging to Belgium. Messages are transmitted by 
telephone to the wireless station on the river front, which then 
forwards these communications to the boat. Radio telephony 
and telegraphy are also used by the Police Judiciaire, under 
the direction of the King's Attorney, to keep in touch with 
the international criminal wireless station of Berlin. 

The two principal cities of Holland, Amsterdam (746,746 
population) and The Hague (432,041 population), are fairly 
well equipped with police-communication facilities. Since the 
Amsterdam police, who are just installing a complete police- 
alarm system, have not seen fit to copy the system already in 
operation at The Hague, a description of both systems will 
be given. 

Aside from the usual public telephone and telegraph facili- 
ties accessible to the police, and the radio, the outstanding 
feature of police communication in The Hague is a network 
of one hundred alarm telephone booths stationed on the public 
streets, by means of which communication is established be- 

Foreign Systems 417 

tween the policeman on street duty and headquarters. These 
booths, which are also at the disposal of the public for notify- 
ing the police and fire departments of an alarm (police and 
fire departments of The Hague are combined into a single 
force), are marked by a conspicuous sign, "Alarm, Fire, 
Police." They are, as a rule, built into kiosks in which news- 
papers, magazines, and refreshments are sold, and the sales- 
man cooperates with the police by keeping a watchful eye on 
the interior of the booth through a small window. Booths are 
also placed in street car waiting rooms, transformer build- 
ings of the municipal electric service, schools, and occasion- 
ally in ordinary houses. Every effort has been made to place 
the hundred units at the busiest points of the city and in the 
most conspicuous places. 

The booths may be entered from the street by means of un- 
locked half-doors which cover the upper section of the open- 
ing only, and so prevent false alarms and maliciousness by 
making the occupancy of the booth semipublic. Within the 
enclosure is a telephone connected by direct wire to the cen- 
tral operator at police headquarters. A notice above the tele- 
phone contains the instructions: "Take receiver off hook, 
listen until police reply ; after speaking, hang up receiver." 

The recall signal operated in connection with these booths 
is an unusual and ingenious device. Within each booth, and 
in a place not visible from the street, is a tiny cupboard in 
which, behind a small square window, may ordinarily be seen 
a white disk. The telephone operator at headquarters, through 
the operation of an automatic device, causes this white disk 
to be replaced by a red one with a white cross. The presence 
of the red disk signifies that the policeman on the beat must 
call the police station. The beats of the policemen are so ar- 
ranged that they lead as often as possible past the alarm 
booths, and since the patrolmen must inspect the signal ap- 
paratus in every booth they pass, and since the booths are at 
the central points of the beats, which are placed from 15 to 
30 minutes' walking distance apart, the inspector of a station 
may reach his officers on duty at regular periods in order to 


Police Communication Systems 

Foreign beat communication equipment: The Hague, Netherlands. 

Interior of police booth, showing telephone unit. A notice above the 

instrument says : "Take receiver off hook, listen until police reply ; after 

speaking, hang up receiver." 

Foreign Systems 419 

transmit any necessary orders or information. If, at the end 
of a conversation, the policeman is told that the recall signal 
is no longer needed, he can replace the red disk with the white 
one by turning a special key on the back of the cupboard. 

The system offers a splendid method of supervision, since it 
can easily be determined at the station whether the officers 
call at the various central points at the proper times. But 
defects of this recall system are apparent. It does not permit 
the recall of a specific officer or group of officers, and, since 
the signal cannot be seen except at the time of the regular in- 
spection of the booth, the lag in time of response may be much 
too long. 

The only use made of radio in the police work of the Nether- 
lands consists of daily broadcasts of bulletins from the police 
radio-broadcasting station at Hilversum. The police head- 
quarters of The Hague and other cities are equipped with 
sets for receiving information which is sent out at stated times 
each day. Any information which the police of the various 
cities wish to disseminate by radio is sent to Hilversum by 
telephone and is broadcast from there. 

Up to the present, neither a police-box system nor any of 
the similar mechanical devices so well known to the police of 
the United States has been at the disposal of the Amsterdam 
police or public. When emergencies have arisen making it 
necessary for policeman or citizen to communicate with head- 
quarters or any of the precinct stations, the only available 
means has been the ordinary public telephone. Since Amster- 
dam, with a population of more than 746,000, has only about 
30,000 telephone subscribers, not infrequently there has been 
much delay in obtaining the desired connections, a difficulty 
especially noticeable after 8 :00 o'clock at night, when most 
of the small shops and all the department stores and offices are 

To remedy this situation, plans have been completed for 
the installation of an alarm system which will afford mutual 
communication between headquarters and the patrolmen and 
enable citizens to call for police assistance without delay. The 


Police Communication Systems 

Foreign beat communication equipment: The Hague, Netherlands. 

Police booth, exterior view, showing how doors only cover upper section 

(about two-thirds the height of the entrance) so that the lower part 

remains open and may be inspected from the street. 

Foreign Systems 421 

alarm-system units will be installed in steel cabinets fixed 
to four hundred pillars, which now support the fire-alarm 
boxes. These pillars are but two minutes apart, so that the ef- 
fective distance to a beat telephone will be only one minute at 
the most. Each unit will be equipped with a telephone, a siren, 
and a recall signal light installed in the rear half of the fire- 
alarm cabinet. Patrolmen will be supplied with keys and will 
be able to unlock the cabinet and get telephone connection 
direct with headquarters. The citizen will be able to communi- 
cate with the station by breaking a thin pane of glass and 
pressing a button which causes the door of the cabinet to 
spring open, thus making the telephone accessible. The recall 
equipment of the system consists of a calling lamp installed 
within the cabinet and visible from both sides through win- 
dows, and a siren. Should headquarters desire to communi- 
cate with a policeman on a particular beat, it will be able to do 
so by illuminating the calling lamp as a means of notification. 
In order to draw immediate attention, the sirens in the pillar 
cabinets in the specific section under patrol may be put into 

Besides this modern alarm system now being installed, the 
Amsterdam police enjoy an efficient system of communica- 
tion between headquarters and district police stations. The 
principal equipment is a teleprinter installation consisting of 
one sending and three receiving machines and the neces- 
sary machines in each of the fourteen district stations, and a 
switchboard by means of which headquarters can broadcast 
to all stations or carry on two-way communication with any 
individual station. The cable used for the teletype system is 
also utilized for direct telephone connections between head- 
quarters and the district offices, and this telephone connec- 
tion can be used even when the teletype is in operation. Com- 
munication traffic over the system averages 130 messages a 
day for each teleprinter, the length of the messages varying 
from 12 to 100 words. 

Up to the present, alarm systems in Amsterdam have been, 
for the most part, of the type which gives a local signal out- 

422 Police Communication Systems 

side the building in which the system is installed. Only a few 
of the government and municipal financial institutions are 
equipped with alarms wired to the nearest police station. 
This contrivance consists of a simple bell system which can 
be operated by the staff of the building concerned when police 
assistance is required. Technical difficulties have prevented 
the development of radio communication for police purposes. 
Despite the absence of such equipment, however, Amsterdam 
will have, when the alarm system is completely installed, one 
of the best police communication systems in Europe. 


The remaining countries of Europe may be conveniently 
classed and treated together with respect to their police com- 
munication systems. With few exceptions, in most of these 
countries the state police force, organized along military or 
semimilitary lines and exercising jurisdiction over the whole 
country, is the most important factor in the maintenance of 
public order and the suppression of crime. Furthermore, slug- 
gish industrial development in these countries and the conse- 
quent financial stringencies have prevented the development 
of complete and modern local police communication systems. 
The chief emphasis has been placed on long-distance com- 
munication, and in recent years radio has been called upon 
more and more frequently to meet this need. Greece, Jugo- 
slavia, Spain, and Portugual, however, constitute exceptions 
to this statement, for in these countries long-distance as well 
as local police communication has been neglected. Inquiries 
have brought the information that no special police-communi- 
cation equipment, such as visual and audible signal accesso- 
ries, beat telephones, or radio exists anywhere in Jugoslavia, 
Spain, or Portugal. Only telephones and the telegraph are 
used for police purposes. In Greece, the municipal police force 
is of such recent origin that it has not as yet been supplied 
with communication equipment, and no definite information 
is at present available in respect to any alternative methods 
employed for this purpose. 

Foreign Systems 423 

In the large cities of Poland, the police depend upon their 
own private telephone systems for local communication. These 
telephones are of the latest automatic central type and permit 
simultaneous communication with all receivers in the system. 
A few telephones, housed in metal boxes, are placed at busy 

Foreign teletype systems. Central signal room, police headquarters, 
Amsterdam, Netherlands. 

street intersections and in dangerous neighborhoods for the 
use of beat patrolmen. A loud alarm bell is associated with 
these units and is installed on the outside of the metal housing. 
The chief communication medium of the Polish state po- 
lice is the radio. This force possesses nine field and stationary 
transmitters with accompanying receivers. One of these units 
is operated as a central police radio station and maintains con- 
tinuous contact with foreign police radio stations. The field 

424 Police Communication Systems 

transmitters are used for communication purposes within the 
borders of Poland. The stationary transmitters operate in 
the band between 50 and 150 meters, with 50, 100, and 150 
watts' output in the antenna. Each station is equipped with 
a regular receiver of German (Telefunken) make, and an 
auxiliary receiver to be used in emergencies. The field sta- 
tions are of the short-wave type, working usually in the 44-, 
72-, 86-, and 100-meter bands, with 15 watts in the antenna. 

The police of Hungary are divided into two forces, both of 
which are controlled by the state. The city of Budapest and 
other large cities are policed by the Hungarian state police, 
and in the rural districts the gendarmery, a semimilitary or- 
ganization, performs the same duties. The political and social 
conditions of Hungary, which have in large measure deter- 
mined the development of the police communication system, 
have already been described. As indicated, because of these 
conditions, the main emphasis has been placed on intercity 
police communication, which is very well developed, while 
communication between the individual patrolman and the sta- 
tion has been rather neglected. 

The state police in the city of Budapest consists of about 
4000 uniformed patrolmen and 100 officers (exclusive of 
drafting officers and the detective corps). The men on duty 
are distributed among 130 police stations, which are grouped 
into 10 police wards, corresponding to the 10 boroughs of the 
city. 7 Communication between the patrolman on the beat and 
his station takes place only in extraordinary circumstances 
by means of either the telephone in a public booth or any 
private telephone, since the regulations of the Hungarian tele- 
phone monopoly require the owner to put his telephone, free 
of charge, at the disposal of the police, fire brigade, and am- 
bulance service. 

Each police station is connected by telephone to the public 
automatic city exchange. By means of this public telephone 

7 The Danube Biver, and four other police districts for the adjoining 
municipal and suburban areas, which have been incorporated into the 
Budapest police district, bring the total up to 15. 

Foreign Systems 425 

the police stations may communicate with district-station po- 
lice, with headquarters, and with one another. Each of the 
twenty-two district police stations also has a direct line to 
police headquarters which does not pass through the city 
exchange. These lines are connected to a police central in the 
headquarters building which has, in addition to an ample 
number of city trunk lines, special lines to the chief of police, 
to important departments of the police, the fire brigade, the 
ambulance, the police radio station, and the military au- 

Radio, however, is the mainstay in the system of police com- 
munication in Hungary. The equipment installed in 1930 
proved entirely successful even during the first year of op- 
eration. The installation consists of a central station in Buda- 
pest, and four district broadcasting stations, one being placed 
in each of the district police headquarters at Szeged, Debre- 
cen, Szekesfehervar, and Szombathely, with 233 associated 
receiving sets. The central broadcasting station is housed in 
a modern concrete building, equipped with steel doors and 
capable of being defended against rifle and machine-gun fire. 
The equipment consists of two broadcasting stations, of 600 
watts and 70 watts respectively, capable of both telegraphic 
and telephonic broadcast. The station operates on a wave 
length of 70 meters for the Hungarian police station, com- 
municates on the international police short wave at regular 
daily hours with Berlin, Vienna, Warsaw, and Bratislava, 
and on a special wave with the Berlin police center. Direct 
radio communication is also maintained with all Continental 
countries that have joined the International Police Com- 

Of the 233 receiving sets used by the police authorities, 134 
are in Budapest. Each of the 130 police stations in the city 
has one, the other four being installed respectively in the 
Ministry of the Interior (the supreme authority in police mat- 
ters) , the Political Department of the Police, the offices of the 
Commander of the Police Force, and the offices of the Buda- 
pest Chief of Police. The other 99 sets are distributed over the 

426 Police Communication Systems 

country among police authorities in the cities and to the com- 
mander of the gendarmery. A patrol car is being equipped 
as a mobile broadcasting and receiving short-wave station for 
special use in riots and other disturbances, and will function 
in cooperation with a similar mobile station to be established 
at the barracks of the Commandant-General of the Budapest 
police forces. 

Italy is like the other countries of southern and eastern 
Europe in that the two principal police forces, the Reali Cara- 
binieri ("Royal Carabineers") and the Militi della Milizia 
Voluntaria Sicurezza Nazionale ("Voluntary Militia for Na- 
tional Security"), are national military organizations under 
the control of the Ministry of the Interior. The police func- 
tion in rural and urban sections of the country is discharged 
by units assigned from these two national organizations. The 
importance of the municipal guards in police matters, never 
very great, is rapidly declining in face of the development of 
the voluntary Fascist Militia. Besides the units of these forces 
operating in Rome, that city has had since 1925 a special mu- 
nicipal police force of 5000 men, known as the Guardie Metro- 
politane ("Metropolitan Guards"), and its members do all 
kinds of police duty, including the direction of traffic. 

In Italian cities there are no such systems of beat tele- 
phones, and alarm and recall signals, as are commonly used 
in the United States. The only method of communication be- 
tween the central police office and officers or agents on duty 
is by telephone to the nearest police substation. Rome has 29 
substations for the municipal force and a similar number for 
the use of the military police. Unless, as in extreme emer- 
gencies, a special messenger on a motorcycle is employed, all 
communications between the central office and the men are 
sent through the substations. 

Radio is used by the Rome police only for broadcasting po- 
lice notices to points outside the city area. The equipment con- 
sists of a radio transmitter of 200- watts power, operating on 
a wave length of from 45 to 90 meters, with which it is pos- 
sible to cover effectively an area of about 600 square kilo- 

Foreign Systems 427 

meters. Furthermore, ten police cars are equipped with por- 
table transmitters and receiving sets, each capable of com- 
munication over an area of 300 square kilometers. 

Police communication in both Spain and Portugal still de- 
pends exclusively upon the telephone and telegraph. The large 
cities, such as Barcelona, Madrid, and Lisbon, are divided into 
several police districts, which are connected to the central 
station by private telephone lines. In emergencies, the district 
stations may receive orders from police headquarters, but no 
similar system exists for transmitting orders from the sta- 
tions to the patrolmen on beats, who can get in touch with 
their district station only by using a telephone in either a 
public booth or a private home. Beat telephones, recall sig- 
nals, teletypewriters, and radio are nowhere to be found, even 
though the problems of policing such large urban centers as 
Barcelona (767,744 population), Madrid (816,928), and Lis- 
bon (600,000) must be complex. 

Radio and the teletype would be especially suited to the 
needs of police communication in Spain, for the principal po- 
lice forces of the country, the Guardia Civil, the Cuerpo dc 
Seguridad, and the Cuerpo de Vigilancia are national forces 
under control of the central government. The Guardia Civil, 
which deals with the suppression of serious crimes and the 
maintenance of political order, has 1000 officers and 30,000 
men distributed among 3200 posts throughout the country. 
The Cuerpo de Seguridad is a national police force which does 
the principal patrol work in all the cities of Spain ; it is paral- 
leled by the Cuerpo de Vigilancia, a similar force engaged in 
criminal investigation activities. Such forces would, of course, 
be more effective if controlled and directed through means of 
communication, especially since one of their primary respon- 
sibilities is the maintenance of political order. 


Geographic social conditions in South Africa have operated 
to make police communication very primitive. The large area 
of the Union (472,347 square miles) is rather sparsely settled, 

428 Police Communication Systems 

the total population being 8,013,697. More than 75 per cent 
of the population is composed of native and Asiatic peoples 
and much of the crime consists of the rather elementary of- 
fenses to be expected of aborigines coming into contact with 
civilization. The largest city in the Union is Johannesburg 
(population 288,000), followed by Cape Town (207,404) and 
Durban (146,324). All other communities in the area have 
populations of less than 100,000. 

The entire territory, rural and urban, of South Africa is 
policed by one semimilitary organization of some 10,600 men, 
known as the South African Police. 8 For police purposes, this 
area is divided into eight territorial divisions, each of which 
is composed of from one to ten magisterial districts. Police 
posts occupied by a varying number of constables are scat- 
tered throughout the districts. Most of the posts outside of 
the cities police the wide areas that surround them, and the 
constables in charge have to make long journeys on horseback 
in order to cover their territory. Much of the criminal work 
is concerned with cattle-stealing by natives, which does not 
require the rapid means of communication so necessary in 
an urban and industrialized community. It is not surprising, 
therefore, that in the rural area, aside from the ordinary gov- 
ernment telephones and telegraphs, there is no system of di- 
rect communication between patrolmen and police stations. 

No police boxes, recall signals, or alarm systems exist in the 
whole dominion of South Africa. Radio is not used by the po- 
lice, and although the three major broadcasting stations at 
Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban (and relay stations 
at Pretoria and Bloemfontein), all of which belong to a pri- 
vate company, are ready to circulate any urgent calls when 
requested to do so by the police, the occasions on which these 
facilities have been employed have been very few. In Johan- 
nesburg, the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of the 
Witwatersrand Division has been trying to interest the au- 
thorities in the installation of a police radio system. If the 

8 The one exception to this general statement is the city of Durban, 
which has its own municipal police force. 

Foreign Systems 429 

estimates for this equipment are not accepted, he hopes to be 
able at least to obtain a private telephone system. 


The self-governing Commonwealth of Australia is a federa- 
tion of six states and two territories. Since, in Australia, the 
police is a state and not a federal function, each Australian 
state has a separate police force. These forces are organized 
on a territorial basis, each police force being responsible for 
the maintenance of law and order in the entire area of its re- 
spective state. 

The police problem in most of these areas is sharply divided 
between the policing of the vast, sparsely settled hinterland 
and the maintenance of public safety in the cities. In most of 
the states, the greater part of the population lives in the cities. 
In the following discussion, the communication systems of 
the three principal states of the Union New South Wales, 
Victoria, and Queensland are considered. 

The police force of New South Wales is composed of 3500 
men posted to 700 police stations. The personnel of these sta- 
tions ranges from city divisions of 300 men to back-country 
stations of but one or two officers. In the country, the mounted 
patrolmen cover beats ranging in size from 400 to 6000 square 
miles. To these men, no special means of communication are 
available while they are on patrol. Communication between 
their stations and headquarters is by the telephone, telegraph, 
and postal services. 

The Victoria police force of 2150 men polices one of the 
smallest states of Australia, the area of Victoria being only 
87,884 square miles. For police purposes the state is divided 
into 11 police districts, each of which is decentralized into 
subdistricts controlled by a subofficer or a constable, accord- 
ing to the population and conditions in the district. All com- 
munication between subdistrict and district stations, and 
between district stations and headquarters is, as in New South 
Wales, by the telephone, telegraph, and postal services. The 
same means of communication are employed in Queensland to 

430 Police Communication Systems 

connect the Commissioner of Police with the various district 
headquarters, which are scattered over Queensland's sparsely 
populated 670,500 square miles of territory. 

In policing the cities of the Commonwealth, the Australian 
police have made little attempt to maintain communication 
between the police station and the beat patrolmen. Only in 
one of the metropolitan divisions of Sydney have a few police 
booths been installed, by means of which the policeman and 
the citizen can telephone directly to the divisional headquar- 
ters. Neither Melbourne nor Brisbane makes use of a police-box 
system, for the police in these cities still follow the outworn 
practice of periodically calling in person at the police station 
for orders and messages. 

For communicating between city headquarters and police 
cars, however, radio has been well developed by the police 
of Melbourne and Sydney. In Melbourne, experiments with 
radio communication between the police station and auto- 
mobiles were begun in 1922, and have been continued. A 
well-developed system of transmission between the police 
broadcaster at headquarters and a number of radio-equipped 
patrol cars has been established. All the patrol cars in both 
Melbourne and Sydney are equipped with portable trans- 
mitters as well as receivers, making two-way communication 
possible. In emergencies, beam wireless service is also used 
by the police of New South Wales in order to communicate 
with another country. 

A telephoto transmission system is in operation between 
Sydney and Melbourne, a distance of 600 miles, for the occa- 
sional transmission of photographs and fingerprints. The sys- 
tem is operated by the Postmaster-General's Department and 
employs Siemens-Karolus-Telefunken equipment. The Aus- 
tralian police authorities also report a high degree of success 
with the Collins Code System for communication in distant 
identification between Australia and Scotland Yard. During 
the entire period of its use, no erroneous identification has 
been made either by Scotland Yard or by the Australian 

Foreign Systems 431 


With respect to their police administration, the countries of 
northern Africa and the Near East can be divided into two 
groups those which have come under British influence, and 
those which have not. The first group includes Egypt, Pales- 
tine, and Iraq; the second, Turkey, Morocco, and Algeria. 
Police communication in the second group is more primitive 
than in the countries which have police departments organ- 
ized by or under the influence of the British authorities. The 
telephone and telegraph are the only means of police commu- 
nication in Turkey. In Istanbul, the largest city of Turkey 
(population, including suburbs, 1,003,486), the telephone 
is the only means of police communication. Central head- 
quarters is connected with district headquarters by direct 
telephone lines, and district police stations, in turn, are con- 
nected with various police boxes in which an officer is in at- 
tendance either constantly or between fixed hours. There is 
no systematic reporting by the officers, telephones being used 
only in emergencies or when the subdistrict office wishes to 
get in touch with officers on point duty. In the smaller cities 
and the country districts of Turkey, police communication is 
still more primitive. 

Algerian and Moroccan police communication is in the same 
stage of development as the Turkish system, even though 
Algeria has the advantages of French administration. The po- 
lice of Algeria are of three kinds municipal police for each 
city except Algiers, a state police force for the capital, and 
a semimilitary gendarmery which polices the areas outside 
the municipalities. Police communication is extremely simple, 
consisting only of the whistle for members of the force, and 
the telephone. The police force of Algiers, a city of 265,000 
inhabitants, maintains communication between headquarters 
and the nine substations by means of a telephone installed in 
each station. No method is provided for keeping in touch with 
the patrolmen on the beat or the motorcycle squads which 
patrol the outlying areas. In spite of the primitiveness of the 

432 Police Communication Systems 

system, the police seem to be able to cope with the problems 
of crime ; for, as the American Consul at Tangier remarked 
concerning similar conditions at Morocco, "The Moorish pop- 
ulation has extreme respect for the police forces." 

The communication practices of the police of Iraq, Pales- 
tine, and Egypt, all of which have been organized by and 
under British influence, are in advance of the police forces 
of other countries of the Near East, chiefly in their use of 
radio and other signaling devices for communication with out- 
lying or isolated posts. The Egyptian police in Alexandria, 
who do not as yet use the radio, employ a police-box telephone 
system in the outlying districts. A recall signal consisting of 
a large bell and a red light make it possible for the station to 
summon the patrolman to the phone. This system is to be ex- 
tended to the other districts of the city as rapidly as funds 
are made available. 

In Palestine and Iraq, the police forces are semimilitary or- 
ganizations, charged not only with the maintenance of law 
and order in cities and rural areas, but also with the task of 
aiding in the regular patrolling of the border and other mili- 
tary duties. In both countries, the chief means of communica- 
tion used are the telephone, telegraph, and wireless. Neither 
country is well equipped with public telephone lines and the 
erection of telephone equipment specifically intended for po- 
lice patrols is well-nigh impossible because of the expense 
involved. For this reason, although the police make use of tele- 
phones wherever possible, and even on occasion carry porta- 
ble telephones for connection at "plug-in" points along the 
main lines, the chief reliance of the police in isolated posts is 
on radio communication. 

The Iraq police have a few wireless sets for communica- 
tion with the police posts of the Southern Desert and Kundi- 
stan. In Palestine the police force operates eight wireless 
stations, the most important of which are in the Beersheba 
district. By cooperating with the Royal Air Force and the 
Frontier District Administration, relays can be put through 
to the north of Palestine, Syria, Trans jordania, and Egypt. 

Foreign Systems 433 

Besides wireless, the isolated posts of Iraq use the heliograph 
to interchange information between outlying police posts and 
police stations, and in Palestine the Royal Air Force's method 
of ball-and-arrow code signaling and message pick-up has 
been adopted as an emergency means of communication ; thus 
far, thirty-six of the most vulnerable posts and settlements in 
the country have been so equipped. The signaling apparatus 
consists of a number of white disks and stripes which can be 
set to various combinations to convey information to aircraft. 
The code includes an instruction to aircraft to fly low and pick 
up a message. A written message is placed in a special bag 
suspended by cord between two poles and the bag is picked 
up by a grapnel from the machine. The degree of success ob- 
tained through this method in practice drills has revealed, 
according to the Palestine police, that this may prove to 
be a valuable means of communication in times of emergency, 
should other systems fail. 


Police communication systems developed in the Orient range 
from the extremely simple methods employed in countries like 
India and Siam to the highly integrated modern system in- 
stalled in the International Settlement at Shanghai. As a rule, 
conditions of society and of crime in the Orient are such that 
the police can cope successfully with the criminal element 
without requiring a complicated communication framework. 
The unsettled conditions in China, however, and the presence 
of a large number of foreigners in Shanghai, as well as the 
great wealth concentrated there, have caused the police of the 
International Settlement to work out a communication sys- 
tem which will compare favorably with the best in Europe 
and America. 

As previously indicated, existing conditions in Japan have, 
in the opinion of Japanese officials, made elaborate police com- 
munication technique unnecessary. The absence of a lawless 
foreign element in the community; the high degree of stand- 
ardization of the customs and habits of the populace, which 

434 Police Communication Systems 

inclines the people from earliest childhood toward strict ob- 
servance of the law ; the rigid police control of the sale and 
possession of firearms; the careful catalogue maintained of 
the movements of the population, and the complete police rec- 
ord of all inhabitants ; the relatively small number of auto- 
mobiles in Japan, which, including the approximately 90 per 
cent engaged in the taxi or hire service, are present in the pro- 
portion of 1 to about 650 of the population ; the absence, out- 
side of urban areas, of an extensive system of roads suitable 
for high-speed transportation, which greatly restricts the ave- 
nues of escape ; and the extensive authority vested in the po- 
lice, which is much greater than that obtaining in many other 
countries all these conditions have contributed toward eas- 
ing the problems faced by the Japanese police officials. 

Police communication in Japan depends, therefore, almost 
entirely upon the telegraph and the telephone. Private tele- 
phone lines, with a total length of 74,230 miles, connect police 
headquarters in every part of the Empire, and almost all 
intercity messages are sent over these lines. Radio for police 
purposes is not used, either for sending long-distance mes- 
sages or in the patrolling of urban areas. In the large cities of 
the Empire, also, such as Tokyo (population, including en- 
virons, 5,500,000), Yokohama (543,500), and Nagasaki (197,- 
000) , there is a uniform reliance upon the telephone for police 
communication purposes. A private police telephone system 
connects the headquarters station in Tokyo and in Yokohama 
with the precinct stations throughout the prefectures in 
which those cities are located. 

Each of the precinct stations is in turn connected by pri- 
vate telephones to a number of "police boxes." These units 
differ from the police booth of England, for they usually con- 
sist of small one- or two-room structures, and their use ranges 
from serving as a mere sentry box to providing room and 
sleeping quarters for several officers. They are to be found in 
almost all Japanese cities 400 in Tokyo alone. Approxi- 
mately 300 are connected with the 30 precinct stations of the 
Kanagawa-Kencho Prefecture, in which the city of Yokohama 

Foreign Systems 435 

is situated. Since most of the police boxes are manned by at 
least two men, one of whom spends part of his time on outside 
patrol while the other remains on duty at the post, it is possi- 
ble to send orders for the patrolman to the box. Headquarters, 
all precinct stations, and the more important police boxes are 
supplied with telephones of the public system, thus enabling 
both the beat patrolman and the citizen to get in touch with 
the station. 

Any description of police communication in China must 
take into account the differences between the systems devel- 
oped by the native Chinese police forces and the splendid 
system of the Shanghai municipal police force of the Interna- 
tional Settlement. The communication systems of the Chinese 
police forces in such cities as Hankow and Peiping do not 
depart greatly from the general low level of police communi- 
cation in the Orient, although they are slightly ahead of Japa- 
nese practice in the use of electric burglar alarms. 

The police of the International Settlement, undoubtedly 
because of the value of the property they must protect and 
the comparatively liberal budget allowed them, have devel- 
oped a modern and adequate communication system that 
makes use of the most recent electrical devices. A brief de- 
scription of this force and its communication system should 
be sufficient to convince the reader of the truth of General 
C. D. Bruce's statement that "the S. M. P., as they are locally 
known in that extraordinarily constituted Settlement, are 
probably the most up-to-date and efficient police force east 
of Suez. They can bear favorable comparison with any force 
either in Europe or Asia." 9 

A brief description of the Chinese police communication 
system will aid in giving a perspective for judging the Shang- 
hai system. Police whistles, a private telephone system, and 
an extensive system of electric burglar alarms connected di- 
rectly to the police station, are the principal features of the 
systems in Hankow and Peiping. The Peiping police also 

9 Brigadier-General C. D. Bruce, C. B. E., "Shanghai, The Interna- 
tional Settlement and Its Municipal Police Force," Police Journal (Lon- 
don), Vol. I, No. I, p. 128 (1928). 

436 Police Communication Systems 

maintain a system of alarm-bell stations and have special 
public telephones for the reporting of fire alarms and rob- 
beries. The police whistle forms a very important part of the 
Chinese policeman's equipment, since there are no police 
boxes for summoning aid. Detailed instructions are laid down 
in both Hankow and Peiping for using the whistle in various 
situations, and much more emphasis is placed upon its use 
than in Europe and the United States. 

The city of Hankow is divided into four police districts, 
Hanyang composing a separate district. The headquarters of 
the telephone system is at the Public Safety Bureau, which 
has lines to all the police stations and to the Gendarme Bar- 
racks. For the transmission of urgent messages, a relay sys- 
tem has been devised whereby the Public Safety Bureau may 
send messages to the principal station in each district, which, 
in turn, relays it to certain other stations, and from these 
points it may be transmitted to the remaining stations. When 
a station has an urgent report to make, it calls the Public 
Safety Bureau or the Gendarme Regiment, and then commu- 
nicates with its neighboring stations, according to the plan. 
Although this relay system increases the time consumed and 
the possibility of error, it does spread the burden of repeating 
the message, so that no operator is required to call more than 
three or four stations. In Peiping, besides the private police 
telephone system, separate public telephone numbers are set 
aside for the use of the public in reporting fires and robber- 
ies. There are also five fire-alarm-bell stations manned by fire- 
brigade policemen. Fires are reported to these stations and 
the alarm is spread by means of the bells. 

Because of the prevalence of the crimes of burglary and 
arson in Chinese cities, the police have made widespread use 
of burglar alarms installed in private houses and shops and 
connected to the police station by direct private wire. In every 
police station signal boards are installed, at which the alarm 
system lines terminate. Where brigands enter a shop or set 
fire to it, the attendant secretly sets off the alarm, causing a 
lamp to burn on the central board and a loud bell to ring. The 

Foreign Systems 437 

number of the lamp informs the police of the location of the 
disturbance and they immediately proceed to the scene of 
action. Great care is taken to see that the system is maintained 
in working order ; the trunk lines and wires in the residences 
and shops are inspected twice a month by the police, and the 
batteries which supply the power are inspected once a month 
by an electrician of the Public Safety Bureau. 

The International Settlement in Shanghai is a political 
area separated only by artificial boundaries from the vast 
native city and the French Settlement. Up to recent times 
when barbed-wire fences were erected in parts of the area, 
boundaries were in some places almost imaginary lines, open 
roads, or narrow streets. The wealth concentrated in the Set- 
tlement attracted criminals to make forays into the district, 
commit crimes, and escape to their hideouts in the native city 
where they were technically outside the jurisdiction of the 
Settlement police. Fugitives fleeing from the police forces of 
the native city or the French Settlement, moreover, were con- 
stantly seeking refuge within the International Settlement. 
Faced with these trying conditions, the Shanghai Municipal 
Police, as the Settlement force is called, realized that success- 
ful coping with the problem required the best communication 
equipment obtainable. 

The communication system that they established consisted 
in 1931 of the usual public telephone network, radio-equipped 
patrol vans, a street telephone system, and a burglar-alarm 
system. Plans were completed at that time for the installation 
of a teletypewriter and an antikidnaping, direction-finding, 
control system. The center of the communication system is 
situated in a specially built chamber atop the police ad- 
ministration building 1 , and is known as the "Communication 
Control Room." In it are installed the main telephone switch- 
board, the radio transmitter, and the street telephone central 
switchboard. In 1932, it was planned to install in this room 
the power apparatus and control switchboard of the tele- 
printer system, the teleprinters, and the plotting instruments 
for the direction-finding system. 

438 Police Communication Systems 

For police purposes, the International Settlement is di- 
vided into numerous districts, in each of which a police station 
has been erected, and all these stations are connected with 
headquarters by private telephone lines. In addition, there 
are 139 street telephone boxes placed at advantageous points. 
The points for these telephones were not selected for beat 
use as in most American and European cities ; they are stra- 
tegically chosen near the boundary of the Settlement, or at 
boundary gates, or upon roads leading into outside territory 
and therefore likely to be used by criminals in their attempt 
to escape. 

These telephones are used primarily in emergencies. The 
introduction of radio-equipped vans, however, has increased 
their range of usefulness considerably. The only communica- 
tion a van has with headquarters when it is on its tour of duty 
is by means of the telephone boxes. Tests of radio apparatus 
are reported through them, and a van which has been unable 
to receive a call from headquarters because of the failure of 
radio broadcast may be located by means of the street tele- 
phone system. 

All the telephones are connected directly to a separate 
switchboard at the district station controlling the area in 
which the units are located, and each station switchboard is 
in turn linked by a trunk line to the central control switch- 
board at headquarters. The telephones used are of regular 
type and are housed in the familiar type of iron box used 
in the United States. Each box has, besides the bell, a red light 
fixed to the pole on which the box is secured, or suspended 
over a road at that corner. The light is operated by a relay 
from the ringing circuit and will not cease flashing until the 
call is answered. As is the practice in many American cities, 
the system is maintained by the local telephone company. 

The radio motor patrols of the Settlement police consist of 
twelve trucks, built in Shanghai and designed to accommo- 
date ten men equipped with steel waistcoats. Each van is 
fitted with Marconi radio receiver apparatus and both ear- 
phones and loud-speaker. The transmitter at headquarters is 

Foreign Systems 439 

a Marconi X.M.B. la, 100-watt marine type, fitted with a 
buzzer circuit. The buzzer acts as a "howler" and is used to 
precede emergency calls with the result that if the patrolmen 
are out of the van for any purpose, the call is loud enough to 
summon them to receive the message. Although the transmit- 
ter is equipped with both microphone and telegraph circuits, 
only the microphone is used. 

The burglar-alarm system used in the International Settle- 
ment is maintained and operated by the local telephone com- 
pany. It connects the principal banks, jewelry stores, mills, 
and other establishments to the nearest police station. A dis- 
location of a disk contact at the subscriber's end excites a 
sending apparatus which punches the number assigned to 
that subscriber on a tape at the police station. It will be noted 
that the alarm systems are not wired to the central Communi- 
cation Control Room; direct communication with the police 
station in the district concerned is considered by Settlement 
officials to be a speedier method of handling calls of this kind. 

The program of expansion for 1932 included the installa- 
tion of one Creed page-type sending and receiving teleprinter 
in each police station and three similar machines at headquar- 
ters. This system was to be "phantomed" over the existing 
street telephone trunk lines. Plans were also made to equip 
the Shanghai police with an ingenious kidnaping prevention 
device, adapted from the direction-finding services used in 
aviation. So far as is now known to the writer, this system 
has not been adopted by any other police force. The facilities 
were made necessary by the fact that kidnaping is probably 
more prevalent in China, and in Shanghai in particular, than 
in any other place in the world. 

Briefly, the system will enable subscribers who are being 
kidnaped or otherwise attacked in their automobiles to let the 
police know instantly of the crime and where the victim is 
being taken. A radio transmitter is installed in the motor cars 
of all subscribers, which starts operating at the will of the 
person upon whom an attack is being made, by means of a 
privately known contact, and once started it cannot be shut 

440 Police Communication Systems 

off. This call is picked up by the direction-finding apparatus 
installed in the police stations, and the reading of these sta- 
tions is communicated to the Communication Control Room, 
which is equipped with plotting apparatus. The exact loca- 
tion of the car can then be plotted out and followed. In the 
meantime, police radio vans will have been directed to the 
route taken and informed of other necessary details to hasten 
pursuit and capture. 

It was subsequently reported that in December, 1933, the 
Shanghai City Council entered into a formal agreement with 
the manufacturer, the main provisions of which are : 

(1) The company is permitted to install and maintain in approved 
police stations, for three years, such equipment as may be necessary to 
operate the alarm system. All installations are subject to the approval 
of the Council, but the cost and maintenance thereof are a responsibility 
of the company. 

(2) The Council agree that alarms received at the police stations shall 
be acted upon, although it is not to be held responsible if any call is 

(3) The Council is indemnified against any damage or injury arising 
out of the operation of the system. 

(4) All users of the system must enter into a contract approved by the 
Council, which among other things provides for a penalty of $25 for 
each false or unnecessary alarm. Both the Council and the company have 
the right to object to the rendering of this service to any particular 
person or vehicle. 

(5) In the event of breach of the agreement by the company, or of 
injury to any other undertaking, the service not being maintained in a 
continuous and effective manner, the Council may terminate the agree- 
ment on six months' notice. 

Police communication in India, Siam, and the other coun- 
tries of Asia, is rather primitive. In the large cities of India, 
such as Calcutta and Bombay, the only means employed by 
the police are the public telephone and telegraph. In Calcutta, 
all police sections and outposts are on the main city telephone 
system and arrangements have been made whereby police 
calls are given immediate attention, and urgent calls, known 
as XXX messages, are sent to all police sections and other 
posts at any time of the day or night. Police communication 

Foreign Systems 441 

is no further advanced in Bombay; and some districts in 
India have no telephones for police or any other purposes. 

A similar condition exists in the Malay Peninsula, except 
for the city of Singapore in the Straits Settlements. The Sing- 
apore police communication system consists of a private 
telephone system connecting police headquarters with police 
stations and officers' domiciles, and a number of police-box 
telephone units scattered throughout the city. Certain jewel- 
ers' shops and other establishments have burglar alarms con- 
nected to the nearest police stations. 


Police communication in all the countries of South America 
is still at a rather low level. Nowhere has it advanced beyond 
the installation of private telephone systems for connecting 
headquarters with precinct stations. In most of the large 
South American cities, the typical police-communication 
framework consists of a private telephone system, over the 
lines of which orders and messages may be transmitted 
between headquarters and the outlying stations. Patrolmen 
either report to their station in person or are visited by 
superior officers at stated intervals. In Buenos Aires the ar- 
rangement differs in that the forty-five precinct stations are 
connected to headquarters by telegraph instead of by tele- 
phone. In only one country of South America have the prin- 
cipal cities installed any means of communication between 
the patrolmen on beats and their respective stations, namely, 
in Chile, in the cities of Santiago and Valparaiso. Police radio 
systems, burglar and bank alarms connected to police head- 
quarters, and recall-signal systems none of these are in- 
stalled anywhere in these countries. In Chile, which ranks 
among the most advanced of South American countries, burg- 
lary and robbery on the scale known to the United States are 
unknown, and it is reported that a bank robbery has never 
been committed there. 

An awakening interest in police communication improve- 
ment is evident, at present, in many of these countries. Early 

442 Police Communication Systems 

in 1932, the police in Buenos Aires had projected the installa- 
tion of an extensive system of communication between patrol 
officers and their heaquarters, and the purchase of radio 
equipment. The Chief of Police of Montevideo, Uruguay, was 
considering at that time the installation of a police radio 
system, and the proposed visit of a Police Mission from Ma- 
drid, Spain, to study the Bolivian police problem augured 
well for an improvement in communication practice in that 

There is a lack of information concerning the communica- 
tion equipment of the police of Central America, with the 
exception of that used by the police of the Canal Zone. There 
is no reason for believing, however, that it differs materially 
from its South American contemporaries. In the Panama 
Canal Zone, where American police administrative practice 
and equipment have been installed, the area is divided into 
two police districts, in each of which there is a central station 
and numerous police booths. The stations are equipped with 
connections to the regular Canal Zone telephone system and 
with a special police telephone system connecting with the 
booths. The booths are equipped with a loud signal bell and 
either a miniature semaphore signal or a small light for recall 
purposes. The central stations of the two police districts in the 
Zone are connected to the Paymaster's and Collector's offices 
by a push-button bell alarm, and a similar alarm connects the 
central station at Cristobal with the Post Office and the Chase 
National Bank. 

The police communication equipment in capital cities of 
Cuba and Mexico are rather more typical of the systems found 
on the North American continent than those of the southern 
continent. In addition to the facilities afforded by the two 
public telephone systems operated in the Federal District of 
Mexico, the police department possesses a private system con- 
necting headquarters with the fourteen precinct stations, and 
the precinct stations with approximately three hundred po- 
lice call boxes at various points in the city. Patrolmen are 
required to call their precinct stations whenever they pass a 

Foreign Systems 443 

call box, which averages once in every twenty minutes. No 
recall signals have, however, been installed to operate in con- 
junction with these call boxes. The teletypewriter is not used 
and, although complete plans for a police radio system have 
been formulated, lack of funds has thus far prevented the 
installation of equipment. Many banks are equipped with 
alarm systems, most of which are imported from the United 
States. These are either of the outside-bell type, or of the 
silent-alarm type connected with the precinct station in the 
area wherein the bank is situated. 

The communication system of the Havana police corre- 
sponds even more closely to that existing in American cities 
than does that of the Federal District of Mexico. Not only is 
headquarters connected with the precinct stations by a pri- 
vate telephone system, but numerous alarm boxes also supply 
a means of communication between the patrolmen and the 
station. These boxes are supplemented by a recall-light sys- 
tem which enables the station officer to call a single patrolman 
or a group of patrolmen to the telephone. In a critical survey 
of the Havana police department made in 1926, it was recom- 
mended that additional police alarm boxes and recall-light 
units be installed gradually as part of a progressive plan of 
improvement ; it was also noted that a teletypewriter system 
connecting headquarters with the precinct stations would add 
greatly to the efficiency of the police force. 10 


The fact that Canada is a federal state has made police pro- 
tection primarily a provincial responsibility. The provinces 
have, in turn, granted to the cities within their boundaries 
the right of organizing municipal police forces, and some have 
created provincial police organizations for the protection of 
life and property in the rural areas. In addition to the police 
forces named, the central government of Canada maintains a 
police force of its own which has general police powers. To 

10 August Vollmer, Report on the National Police Department of Ha- 
vana, Cuba, rendered to the Secretary of the Interior of Cuba, p. 14 
(August, 1926). 

444 Police Communication Systems 

assist an adequate understanding of the functions of this 
federal force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a word 
must be said concerning the criminal law of Canada. 

The Criminal Code is enacted by the Federal Parliament 
for the whole Dominion, but is enforced in the provinces by 
the provincial attorneys general. In addition to this general 
penal code, the federal government, the provinces, and the 
municipalities all pass laws having penal provisions. The 
Royal Canadian Mounted Police have the duty, therefore, of 
(1) enforcing the federal penal laws and acting as an investi- 
gating agency for the federal governmental departments over 
all Canada ; (2) enforcing all law, both federal and the gen- 
eral penal code, in the vast territories of Canada which have 
not been organized as provinces, and which are, therefore, 
under federal jurisdiction. They also enforce all law in cer- 
tain national parks, Indian reservations, and in the remote 
portions of certain provinces ; and (3) under an arrangement 
effected in 1928, they have resumed the duty of enforcing all 
law, federal and provincial, in the Province of Saskatchewan, 
for which the province pays the federal government a stipu- 
lated sum. Since each of these police forces is faced with dif- 
ferent communication problems, the methods adopted by the 
municipal, provincial, and federal police forces of Canada 
may now be briefly discussed. 

The communication systems of the municipal police forces 
of Canada are similar to those in the cities of the United 
States. Almost all the large cities are equipped with private 
telephone systems, police-box telephones, and red-light recall 
signals. In 1930, the city of Winnipeg installed the first muni- 
cipal police radio equipment in Canada, comprising a 600- 
watt Marconi transmitter at headquarters and a number of 
radio-equipped patrol cars. Montreal has also adopted the 
facilities of radio communication in police service. The 
Toronto police department has installed a teletypewriter sys- 
tem connecting headquarters with all precinct stations. Win- 
nipeg plans to connect all banks and financial institutions to 
its police stations by a direct alarm system. Canadian munici- 

Foreign Systems 445 

palities are obviously aware of the need for equipping their 
police forces with the most modern facilities to aid them in 
maintaining an enviable crime record. 

The chief problem in communication faced by the provin- 
cial police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is the 
conquest of space. The vast area of Canada, larger than that 
of the United States, must be policed by the forces of a few 
provinces and the national government. The population of 
most of the provinces is small in comparison to their size. 
Wherever the stations of these various police forces are in 
cities and towns, the public telephone and telegraph systems 
are available, of course, for communication purposes. The 
problem lies in maintaining contact with isolated posts and 
in the rapid dissemination of orders and information in 
emergencies. The provincial police of both British Columbia" 
and Alberta seized upon radio communication as a solution. 
In 1931, the Province of Alberta provided for its provincial 
police five transmitters, in Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, 
Peace River, and Grand Prairie. These stations communicate 
with each other daily. More recently, a news item tells of the 
establishment of wireless contact between Royal Canadian 
Mounted Police Headquarters and their patrol at Bache 
Peninsula, seven hundred miles from the North Pole. "All is 
well," reported Corporal H. W. Stallworthy and Constables 
H. W. Hamilton and A. Munro, in their first message to the 
outside world in three years. 12 

American and Canadian policemen look forward to the 
time when the border territory of both countries will be served 
by a police communication network that will make possible 
the highest degree of police cooperation. 

11 See T. W. S. Parsons, "Wireless Telegraphy for Police Purposes 
British Columbia Practice," Police Journal, Vol. Ill, No. 1, pp. 103 ff. 

12 National Police Officer, Vol. 5, No. 5, p. 7 (November, 1933). 

446 Police Communication Systems 


Because of the completeness and also the complexity of the 
German plan of police communication, a discussion of the sys- 
tems and practices to be found in that country has been re- 
served for the concluding pages of this chapter. Restricted 
in police personnel and budget by the terms of the Versailles 
treaty, and faced by a rampant crime situation resulting from 
the political, economic, and social upheavals in postwar Ger- 
many, police administrators have been forced to supplement 
the deficient man power of their departments by the adoption 
of new and improved mechanical facilities. The capital city, 
Berlin, aided by the Prussian Ministry of the Interior, has 
taken the lead in this modernization of police practice and 

Beginning in 1924 with the installation of a police-box 
alarm system in a part of Berlin, communication facilities 
have been expanded until at the present time the Berlin po- 
lice have at their command a complete police-box and recall 
system, an automatic telephone system, a teletypewriter net- 
work, a radio communication system, and the latest in tele- 
photographic equipment. 

The Greater Berlin police communication system. In 
order to appreciate the complicated nature of the police com- 
munication of Greater Berlin, it is necessary to keep in mind 
the large area and complex police organization which it 
serves. The Greater Berlin police, like the forces of many 
other capital cities of Europe, serve a metropolitan area that 
is larger than the city itself. The area over which they have 
jurisdiction is divided into approximately 180 precincts (Ee- 
viere), each containing a police station serving as a head- 
quarters for the patrolmen of that precinct. These precincts 
are grouped into fifteen divisions or districts (Bezirke), each 
controlled by a divisional or inspection office. Between the 
divisional offices and the main office of the department are 
six group stations (Gruppenamter) , serving as brigade head- 
quarters. These group offices report directly to the headquar- 

Foreign Systems 447 

ters of the uniformed police, which in turn, reports to the 
office of the Police President. 13 

The telephone system. 1 * Before 1926, the Berlin police 
telephone system was of the manual switchboard type with 
girls and police officers as operators. The poverty of postwar 
Germany necessitated the withdrawal of most of the female 
telephone operators, since money could not be provided for 
salaries, and the transfer of the police officers from the Com- 
munication Bureau to traffic duty and other services of the 
department in which the need for additional personnel was 
imperative. To meet this situation, the installation of an 
automatic telephone system was one of the first steps in the 
complete reorganization of the entire police communication 

The engineering of the automatic telephone network was a 
task of huge proportions, and it was accomplished with the 
precision characteristic of German ingenuity and initiative. 
Studies of the types of communication traffic to be accommo- 
dated, and the possibilities of an expanding use of the system 
in the future, and analyses of peak loads and distribution of 
business, and of intradepartmental and outside calls had to 
be made before the engineers could distribute the requisite 
facilities so as to ensure the perfect functioning and coordi- 
nation of the entire system. 

Principles of economy and safety made it undesirable to 
connect all the telephones in the system to one central 
exchange. On the contrary, the principle of far-reaching de- 
centralization was adopted and automatic exchanges were 
installed in offices of the Ministry of the Interior, the Police 
Presidency, executive offices of the uniformed force, the six 

13 The municipal police departments of Germany have many more func- 
tions than the police of England and the United States. Besides main- 
tining order, pursuing criminals, and regulating traffic, the Berlin police 
perform the functions of a fire department, health department, prison 
department, building department, and certain functions of a charity 
department. The uniformed police and the detective force are thus only 
two branches of the whole police department, which is presided over by 
the Police President. 

14 Eichard Sienang, "Die Fernsprechanlage der Gross-Berliner Po- 
lizeiverhaltung," Konsern Nachrichten 3 (18), (1928). 

448 Police Communication Systems 

group headquarters (Gruppendmter) , the inspection offices 
and district stations (Bezirke), and the precinct stations (Re- 
viere). At the present time, there are 38 automatic exchanges 
with from 40 to 800 participants, to which are connected ap- 
proximately 180 small precinct switchboards having from 
10 to 20 connections. 

Through this telephone system, every partaker, no matter 
to which exchange he may belong, can automatically reach 
every other partaker of the system. Day or night, every per- 
son using the police telephone system has the assurance of 
being able to reach any other person connected with the sys- 
tem, quickly, and without the intervention of any human 
agency. The installation involved the rental of part of the 
connecting cables from the Government Telephone Adminis- 
tration. The rest of the cables belong to the police. 

Besides these general aspects of the telephone network, cer- 
tain points which make for efficiency in intradepartmental 
and administrative communication are worth mentioning. 
The secrecy of communication desirable in a police telephone 
system is provided for to a marked degree in the Berlin in- 
stallation. Furthermore, many times in a busy day adminis- 
trative officers will have orders and messages of the greatest 
importance to deliven which will require the right of way over 
certain wires, and this situation is provided for by the in- 
stallation of a double switch in the privileged offices, which, 
when thrown, immediately interrupts any conversation and 
seizes the wires for the more important orders. An ingenious 
device enables the chief of the uniformed force to speak to 
the officers in charge of the six group offices simultaneously. 

The police also enjoy the convenience of direct communi- 
cation with the governmental offices of Prussia and of Berlin 
without going through the regular postal telephone network. 
Connections must, of course, also be provided between the 
police network and the public telephone system. This is ac- 
complished by connecting the police controls with the controls 
of the postal telephone system by means of a so-called "half- 
automatic extension central." 

Foreign Systems 449 

Since the telephone system is the property of the police, 
the police department is responsible for its maintenance. Spe- 
cially trained officers, including, in the beginning, those who 
assisted in the installation of the system, are detailed to this 
branch of the service. A special instruction course was given 
to the maintenance staff by the company which installed the 

Police-box, recall, and burglar -alarm systems. It may 
surprise Americans, to whom the police boxes on street cor- 
ners have been a familiar sight for decades, to learn that the 
first police-box system in Germany was installed experiment- 
ally in Central Berlin in 1924. 16 On the basis of experience 
gained with this installation, the Prussian Ministry of the 
Interior in 1926 formulated a set of specifications for the 
police-box systems which were later installed in Greater Ber- 
lin and other cities of Prussia. These specifications called for 
a police telephone unit similar to the automatic boxes in use 
in the United States, containing a telephone and automatic 
signaling apparatus, by means of which the police can: 
(1) summon the reserve emergency squads (Ueberfall Kom- 
mando) through an automatic call which can be sent from the 
outside of the alarm box without the necessity of opening the 
box itself, (2) maintain communication by means of a tele- 
phone instrument, specially designed to overcome all street 
noises, between every box and its precinct station (the con- 
nection of several telephones to one line was avoided so that 
a failure of one alarm box would not disrupt the service of 
several others) ; and (3) enable the precinct station to sum- 
mon an officer to a particular box by means of a bell or horn 
during the day and a light signal during the night, without 
simultaneous sounding of the recall apparatus on the other 

15 Berliner Notruf aktiengesellschaf t, "Notruf Polizei-Melde-Anlager" 
(pamphlet) ; K-. Bugler, Direktor, "Die erste Polizeimelder-Anlage in 
Deutschland : Berlin Mitte," reprint from Siemens Zeitschrift, June, 

16 In fact, aside from a small installation in a part of the city of Oslo 
(Christiania), Norway, this was the first installation of its kind in 

450 Police Communication Systems 

The police-box system of Berlin fulfills two distinct pur- 
poses, and the central equipment and cable net were designed 
and installed to meet these two needs. For eighteen of the 
twenty reserve squads of the Berlin police, alarm installa- 
tions have been provided. For each reserve squad, this in- 
stallation consists of a reception central with automatic 
supervisory apparatus installed in its headquarters, to which 
are connected a number of police and private box alarms. 
When an officer who needs help turns a key in the box, the 
automatic signal equipment is excited and a signal is sent to 
the reserve-squad central. This signal is registered on a tape, 
in Morse code, or at some centrals on a teletypewriter ma- 
chine. It indicates the number of the box from which the call 
was sent, the date, and the time of receipt of the call. By open- 
ing the box and setting an indicator, the policeman can send 
in different signals, such as an ambulance call or patrol- 
wagon call, and other requests for police assistance. The last 
three positions on the indicator scale serve administrative 
control purposes only. 

Upon receipt of an alarm on the reception panel, the officer 
in charge either dispatches the flying reserve squad or for- 
wards the call for help to the precinct station nearest the box 
from which it originated. For this purpose, there is a repeater 
apparatus on the rear wall of the reception central. When the 
number of the alarm box concerned is placed on this appara- 
tus and the proper selector switch is pulled, the number ap- 
pears in code on a tape, or in figures on a register at the 
precinct station, which then sends out the necessary aid. 

In order that the precinct officials may summon a police- 
man to a box, a recall light and bell are installed over each 
unit. Both the light and bell can be made to give, steady or 
intermittent signals. In the first installation in Berlin-Mitte, 
these recall signals were connected to the central office in six 
loop circuits and the recall signal intended for one box was 
received on all the signals connected to that circuit. In the 
later installations, as required by the specifications of the 
Prussian Ministry of the Interior, it is possible to summon 

Foreign Systems 451 

an officer to a particular box without the simultaneous opera- 
tion of other recall-signal units. The recall bell or light con- 
tinues to operate until an officer responds by lifting the 
receiver of the telephone instrument in the box. 

A noteworthy feature of the German police-alarm installa- 
tions is the connection of private burglar alarms into the sys- 
tem. The police boxes which are attached to the reserve-squad 
alarm central represent but one-half of the alarm system. The 
other half consists of private subscribers who have alarms in- 
stalled on their premises and connected by direct wire with 
the central in the reserve-squad headquarters. These private- 
alarm installations range from a simple mechanism installed 
in the bedroom of a private dwelling to elaborately wired sys- 
tems designed to protect bank vaults and jewelers' windows. 
Special safeguards are provided to ensure the receipt of a 
signal even if the wires should be tampered with. 

At the reserve central are kept duplicate keys and diagrams 
of the premises of the subscriber, so that the commander of 
the flying squad can plan his actions intelligently in respond- 
ing to the alarm. The installation of private-alarm equipment, 
for which a rental is paid by the subscriber to the police, is 
being aggressively pushed all over Germany by the companies 
manufacturing the equipment. At present the system is to be 
found in so many cities besides Berlin that Germany takes the 
lead in offering this type of police protection to its citizens." 

The teletypewriter network.' 18 The Berlin police depart- 
ment has had a separate telegraph network connecting its 
various stations since 1853. The growth of the Greater Berlin 
area and the loop construction of the various circuits finally 
brought about a condition in which the telegraph installation 
was no longer adequate for the communication demands made 
upon it. The system was, moreover, objectionable because of 

17 The most general type of burglar-alarm system installed in Germany 
is known as the "Notruf ." It has been installed in the following cities, 
among others: Hamburg, Altona, Bremen, Chemnitz, Frankfurt-am- 
Main, Kassel, Offenbach-am-Main, Pforzheim, and Worms. 

18 Police Lieutenant-Colonel Voit, "Teleprinter Network of the Berlin 
Police Administration," Electrical Communication, Vol. XI, No. 1 (July, 

452 Police Communication Systems 

the expense involved in its operation. Every precinct and tele- 
graph service station required the services of three specially 
trained operators, making a total of abont 1000 men so em- 
ployed throughout the city. It was inevitable, therefore, that 
the police telegraph should be replaced by the far more effi- 
cient teletypewriter in the general modernization of the en- 
tire communication system in 1926. 

The Berlin teleprinter installation closely parallels the po- 
lice telephone system, the central exchange switchboard being 
installed at the headquarters of the uniformed force. This 
exchange is equipped with 40 trunk lines to provide individ- 
ual and group connections with the 15 subexchanges in the 
police department and facilities for direct printer connection 
with the telegraph headquarters of the Reichpost and the fire 
department. Since the main cables of the police teleprinter 
system are leased from the Reichpost, it was a simple matter 
to provide for teleprinter connection between the Berlin po- 
lice and all other police departments so equipped, through 
the facilities of the Reichpost. Ten machines for sending and 
receiving messages, including a high-speed transmitter and 
a tape perforator, complete the equipment of the central office. 

Fifteen subexchanges are installed in the divisional and 
inspection offices of the department. Where these offices are 
not adjacent, they are connected by special trunks. To each 
subswitchboard are connected the divisional office teleprinter 
equipment and the machines in every precinct station of that 
division. Including the police stands in railroad stations, a 
total of 260 police stations can be reached through the tele- 
printer network. 

The operation of the system is, of course, determined by its 
physical connections. Traffic within an inspector's district 
is conducted through the subexchange of that district. Pro- 
vision has been made for sending individual or group mes- 
sages. An inspector can send an order simultaneously to all 
the precinct stations in his district, or an important message 
may be transmitted from a precinct station to all other sta- 
tions in its district and to neighboring districts. Connection 

Foreign Systems 453 

between two inspection districts is established through the 
principal exchange, but, in order to relieve the trunk lines 
between headquarters and districts, direct cross-connections 
between different inspection offices are also made. Messages 
may be sent from any subexchange to all other stations, al- 
though this ties up the network and is only resorted to in ex- 
traordinary situations. Usually a general alarm goes out from 
headquarters through the high-speed transmitter, so that the 
network may be free with a minimum of delay for routine 
traffic. Such general-alarm messages are first perforated on 
a tape which passes through the transmitter at a rate of 360 
letters per minute. 

It has already been mentioned that, for reasons of economy 
and flexibility, the cables and lines for the teleprinter system 
were rented from the Eeichpost. At present, the lines between 
the precinct stations and inspection bureaus are used for tele- 
phone as well as teleprinter traffic, thus giving the police an 
additional telephone channel at no cost. In the future, it is 
intended to extend this duplicate use of the wires throughout 
the system. 

In the teleprinter service, the Berlin police employ Lorenz 
tape printers almost exclusively. The communication officials 
recognize, however, that page printers are preferable for 
broadcasts to all stations, for they can reproduce a greater 
number of copies of the message. Substitution of page for tape 
printers can easily be made, since both types of machine may 
be employed at random in the same network. It is also possible 
to operate the teleprinter machines without land-wire con- 
nections, by means of radio. Although radio teleprinter serv- 
ice is not used frequently in Germany as yet, long experi- 
mentation and research by the commercial firms manufactur- 
ing the equipment, in cooperation with the laboratory of the 
Polizeischule filr Technik und Verkehr, at Berlin, have re- 
sulted in the perfection of the apparatus used for this pur- 
pose, so that it meets the conditions of absolute reliability de- 
manded in police communication. There is little doubt that 
the further expansion of the teleprinter network in Germany 

454 Police Communication Systems 

will result in the general introduction of radio teleprinters to 
replace land-wire systems. This innovation will increase enor- 
mously the flexibility and range of the system. 

Aside from the many advantages which the teleprinter has 
in police service, the Berlin installation strikingly demon- 
strates the economy of this type of communication in com- 
parison with the old telegraph system. Instead of the 1000 
special telegraph operators required to man the telegraph, 
only 24 special men are necessary to handle the heavy traffic 
over the teleprinter network. The headquarters exchange 
alone receives a monthly average of about 7500 messages and 
transmits approximately 3200 in addition to establishing 
about 4200 cross-connections. This great saving in operating 
personnel is possible because reception on a teleprinter does 
not require the presence of an attendant. 

Police radio in Germany. The Berlin police department 
occupies a unique and outstanding position in the field of po- 
lice radio. Not only was radio equipment installed for the use 
of the department itself at the time of the general reorgani- 
zation of the communication system, but the Berlin police ra- 
dio station also serves as the radio transmitting central of a 
national police radio net which includes most of the cities of 
Germany. The Berlin station was, moreover, ch